Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
[Tomorrow is the strongest release day of the year and so we are taking the opportunity to pull our reviews of the key new release titles back up to the top of the stack. Yes, I'm aware parts of the US got it last week already but it's tomorrow here in Canada.]

Could The Disappearance of Alice Creed writer-director J Blakeson be the next Danny Boyle? Consider the facts:

In 1994 Boyle made his feature debut with Shallow Grave, a twisting and turning thriller played out almost entirely in a single location and starring a trio of then largely unknown actors.  The film would win huge acclaim and trigger a fresh wave of smart indie film from the UK.

Now 2009, Blakeson makes his feature debut with Alice Creed, a twisting and turning thriller played out almost entirely in a single location and starring a trio of largely unknown actors.  Will the resulting surge of smart indie film follow?  No idea on that one but the critical buzz is already building force.

A film that occupies a space somewhere between Shallow Grave and Deathtrap, The Disappearance of Alice Creed is one of those films best approached blind.  The less you know about it the better it will work but you can safely be told that the plot revolves around Vic and Danny, a pair of former prison cellmates who have concocted a plan to extract two million pounds from a local businessman by kidnapping his daughter, Alice.  The plan is one Vic worked and refined for years in prison and the pair are well rehearsed.  It should go off like clockwork but planning the steps involved in a successful kidnapping on paper and actually pulling it off in real life are two very different things.

Previously credited as a writer on several short films - some of which he also directed - as well as being a writer on the ill-fated Descent 2, makes his feature directorial debut here and he does it with style.  His command of space and tempo is impressive, his instincts on which moments are the keys to his characters impeccable. He builds tension masterfully throughout and manages to elicit genuine surprise and shock with his twists and reveals on more than one occasion.  As a writer here he has a fantastic sense of how closely to stick to the expected rules of his chosen genre to give maximum effect when he steps into new ground, as a director he shoots with precision while drawing very strong performances out of his trio of performers.

And it is literally and only a trio.  And this is perhaps the most impressive aspect of Blakeson's work.  Much like Eric Valette did with Malefique, Blakeson has here created a film with a severely restricted cast placed in a severely restricted setting and yet managed to keep it fresh and engaging throughout.  It never feels claustrophobic.  It never feels repetitive.  His sense of these people and the space they occupy is absolutely bang on.

Though the film arguably starts a little stronger than it ends, finishing with a third act that would have benefited from some tightening up and a slightly sharper focus, The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a truly exciting debut, one that not only promises good things in the future from Blakeson but also delivers a good load of them now.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

  • J Blakeson
  • J Blakeson
  • Martin Compston
  • Eddie Marsan
  • Gemma Arterton
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J BlakesonMartin CompstonEddie MarsanGemma ArtertonCrimeThriller

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