The Disappearance of Alice Creed
Not only does it turn around the typical kidnapping story and view it from a different angle, but it also does it in a non-Hollywood way with bags of style. Add to that strong performances from the three stars, Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston, and you've got yourself a really good film.
I watched The Disappearance of Alice Creed on Blu-ray from LOVEFiLM, below you can read the review of the film including the picture and audio track, which is surprisingly a high definition track. I say surprisingly because this was quite a small film and with it mainly consisting of dialogue I thought it wouldn't consider a high definition master audio track. There are also a few extras to compliment the Blu-ray. Read on for the review.
The first thing that strikes you about The Disappearance of Alice Creed is the cinematography which in itself is worth watching. For me cinematography is one of the biggest factors of a film, a frame and a scene have to capture me and get me right into that picture, make the mundane look amazing, and find the detail and excitement in the everyday, as well as place the characters and be the foundation of each scene.
The cinematography is incredibly strong from the fade in, the very first scene glides the camera through the car park to the two kidnappers, fast cutting through the rows of cars, then through the fast cuts of the setting up of the house. It not only looks fantastic and seems as though every single shot has been carefully considered, but the editing has been carried out with a real demand for the pace of the story.
Not only is the cinematography strong at the opening, but it remains so throughout the film, even to the closing scenes. I honestly don't think there is a moment where I didn't think the film looked much better than some of the major blockbusters out there, scene by scene it looks miles above its budget.
The opening sequence of the film really does set the tone for everything that comes after. With no dialogue and these excellent visuals, the story is set easily and we know exactly where the film is, even after the dialogue begins it is kept at a minimum and the story unfolds as the characters experience it. I loved this, it grants the audience a strong degree of intelligence and doesn't tell us what we should be feeling or thinking of these characters or their situation. We make our own sympathies and at times we are given free reign to decide for ourselves the motivations of characters, something that is especially apparent at the end. You know there are leading Hollywood studio films that could learn so much from this small, independent thriller, and it clearly out classes many of them.
Before I stop talking about the opening sequences I really want to mention the jump cuts that the film turns to during the setting of the story and also returns to a number of times later on. Instead of trying to over explain something with dialogue or overly long scenes where you get the point a second or two into a ten or fifteen second scene, the pace is kept going and the exposition delivered through fast jump cuts. It's quick, effective, and very stylish. We quickly see what is happening in the scene, the intentions of the characters and there's no need to, for example, watch them dress completely.
Something else that is vital to pulling this style off is the acting, and there are three strong actors in the film that do just that. Martin Compston does give a good performance, but he's overshadowed by the powerful Eddie Marsan who gives quite a range for his character bringing us through the strengths, the weaknesses, and the redemptions, and just like the film he does it without the need for over explanation in scenes of dialogue.
However it's undoubtedly Gemma Arterton that gives the best performance in the film, surprising everyone with the depth of her ability and what she is capable of. I definitely had her pegged as one kind of actress, but this performance really blew that away and made me realise that she's going to be one hell of a talent in years to come, soon forgetting school outfits and blockbuster videogame adaptations.
The story plays out well. It's a strong thriller that is incredibly well thought through and written and gives some great surprises on the way. They aren't earth shattering twists, but damn good surprises, and I think that's a good thing for trying to hinge the whole film around some massive plot twists might have drastically altered the focus of the film, and the focus here is on story and characters. Still, a couple of the surprises are totally unexpected and do change the direction of events on a single scene.
I enjoyed the way the story came to me and I did like the ending, particularly the reflection on the title. I did sit down and ponder the ending a couple of times, wondering if it was too perfect or whether it was just right, I wasn't completely sure. However on the second viewing with the audio commentary, and after some thought, I've decided I really do like the way it plays out.
DTS 5.1 HD Master
I was surprised that the audio track offered the DTS HD Master, and it makes good use of the rears when needed but never lets the dialogue drift to them and keeps them focused on the front, something some films feel the need to do and use all the speakers regardless of the direction. Not so here.
The picture is strong and sharp and gives some great detail, just watch some of the close-ups of the actors faces. The colours are quite rich throughout the film and the lighting is perfect for the locations considering that much is indoors, but it's the framing and movement of the camera that really raise the picture up above the norm.
Audio Commentary with director J Blakeson, Making of Featurette, Extended Scene with Commentary from director J Blakeson, Selected Storyboards
I don't often mention the menus of discs, but on this Blu-ray the menu is just as cool as the rest of the film looks and the music track from the film builds the tension before you've even started watching.
Audio Commentary with director J Blakeson
The audio commentary is interesting, hearing quite candidly from the director about his first time experience and how he felt directing the talented actors. He delivers some interesting facts about the film production and we discover just how small the production was, something that really isn't reflected in the film.
Making of Featurette
Some interesting parts of the featurette are seeing a snippet of Arterton's original casting tape and hearing from the stars. There's a little bit more than the average featurette to be had here, at least it doesn't look like a marketing reel for some attention deficit glossy American television show.
Extended Scene with Commentary from director J Blakeson
The extended scene with commentary shows us a key scene from the film and what it was like before they cut it back to the scene in the final version, and with the writer/director talking us through it as well.
I really did enjoy The Disappearance of Alice Creed. It's a strong thriller that does manage to bring quite a few new turns to the kidnapping story, one which has been visited time and time again.
It looks and feels like a much bigger film, delivering an excellent script that is as much about the camera as it is about dialogue. Gone are the convoluted explanations of characters to recap or explain something you've just seen, you've seen it, and if you weren't watching what are you doing in the audience?
The film grants us a degree of intelligence and makes us work a little for our thriller. It's not readily handed on a plate, and enough is kept away to keep you hungry for more. Neither are the motivations behind characters actions ever explained, there's no need to, they just do things like real people. The writer/director is definitely worth watching, for he's a true fan of cinema.
Superb cinematography in every aspect, strong editing, and great performances from the cast with Arterton and Marsen really commanding their scenes with Arterton giving a very real and emotionally raw performance.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed looks and sounds very good on Blu-ray and adds quite a bit to the film. I'd say it's well worth watching it on this format, especially as they've taken the time to deliver a high definition audio track.