This is an amazing film. While it didn't have an enormous Hollywood advertising budget, it has the potential to gain popularity though positive word of mouth. Here's hoping this review can spread the word.
The movie opens in an unconventional way...there was no title screen. This was done on purpose, since the writer/director J Blakeson wanted to put us right into the story, and it was quite effective.
I was very impressed by another non-conventional technique: for the first 6 minutes of the film, not a single word is spoken. All we see are two men preparing to do (what we assume are) heinous things. It establishes the mood very effectively - cold, calculating men with a crime to commit.
Over the course of the movie, we learn that kidnapping is a crime with a certain level of intimacy that other crimes don't have. Since the victim has to be cared for, clothed and fed, these two kidnappers become surrogate parents. As a result, there is a lot of emotional transference between all three characters. There are plot twists and revelations throughout the film and this keeps the audience guessing what the final outcome will be, right up to the very end.
Gemma Arterton did a phenomenal job as Alice Creed. Her emotions and reactions felt very true to life; she sold every single scene with her portrayals of fear, despair, humiliation, and empowerment.
Martin Compston was an excellent casting choice as Danny. He reminds me of a young Edward Norton - just as charismatic and professional. Martin had to cover a very broad range of emotions in this movie (no spoilers, I promise!) and he always delivered the goods.
I haven't seen Eddie Marsan in his other films - he did an excellent job as Vic. I was genuinely scared of this character throughout the film...his icy demeanor and minimal dialogue made him even more frightening.
It's clear from the director's commentary track that J Blakeson enjoyed making this film and has nothing but the highest respect and admiration for all 3 of his actors and the 30-odd people that composed his movie crew. He talked about difficult filming conditions due to weather and fading daylight, he expressed genuine concern for each of his actors and their peace of mind, and he said that making a feature film was his dream come true.
In a very touching moment, at the very end of the commentary you can hear J Blakeson tearing up as he gives thanks to his mother and father, right before he invites us back for his next film, whatever that may be.
(1) "Phones" deleted scene with optional director commentary (A good scene, but for this type of movie, cutting down the dialogue was very effective).
(2) "Alice gets the gun" extended scene with optional director commentary (Another good scene but it was initially too long. It's nice to see the scene in its entirety).
(3) Outtakes - 4:16 minutes of clips, we watch the cast get a healthy dose of the giggles during various scenes.
(4) Storyboard Comparison - Shows a split-screen of the intro sequence and the "Alice gets the gun" scene.
(5) Theatrical Trailer
The only negative point that comes to mind: because a few scenes were edited for time, some character motivations are unclear. However, by watching the deleted/extended scenes, this helps to clear up some of the confusion.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed reminded me of Memento in several ways - both movies were done by fledgling filmmakers, both had a minimal cast, and both stories were extremely well written.
We've seen Christopher Nolan's career rise to dizzying heights...who knows what J Blakeson could do with a bigger budget and faith from the powers that be?
I can't wait to see what he'll bring us in the future.