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Overall Grade
2.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
1.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3 Stars
Supplements
2 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Skip it

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Street Date:
November 23rd, 2010
Reviewed by:
Drew Taylor
Review Date: 1
December 9th, 2010
Movie Release Year:
2009
Studio:
Starz/Anchor Bay
Length:
100 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

I can pinpoint the exact instant that I started hating 'The Disappearance of Alice Creed,' and it happens in the opening moments.

To be fair, the first few minutes of this micro-budgeted film noir, in which a pair of hoods (played by Martin Compston and the great Eddie Marsan) wordlessly go about their nefarious deeds: they buy soundproofing equipment, outfit a crummy little apartment, buy gags, handcuffs, and the like. The sequence is fueled by a propulsive musical beat (the composer Mark Canham used to do music for videogames) and you can't help but get caught up; you're an accomplice now after all. By the time you realize what they're up to, it's already too late: they're about to nab the titular Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton) and everything is going to go very wrong, very quickly.

Now here's where we get hung up, and where I checked out of the film altogether: as part of the abduction, they strip Alice down. This is supposed to be an act of degradation of course, but in the hands of first time filmmaker J Blakeson (he wrote and directed), it comes off as clumsy and offensive.

You see, when they remove her clothes they also engage in a kind of 'Austin Powers'-esque pantomime. As the geography of the room is established, there's always someone standing in front of Alice's lower half. When they grab a newspaper to show Alice's captors what day it is where do you think they toss it? Yep – over her nether bits. This can be attributed to some misplaced sense of good taste or inherent male squeamishness, but it's a punch that, once pulled, cannot be undone. The movie is now antiseptic and safe and, what's more, shortchanges the character of Alice to a huge degree.

Instead of being a fully formed person, she's now a pin-up model who has found herself engaged in an elaborate bit of torture porn role playing. Her very humanity is gone, because the filmmaker can't deal with showing her entire naked body.

From then on out, the movie tries its hardest to mix things up. There are allegiances that shift, revelations that come out, and the entire thing is infused with an admirable go-for-broke-ness. The interpersonal relationships are interesting, for sure, and at times it comes off as something slightly more than the pulpy trash it quite obviously is. If it wasn't bogged down by the icky subtext (and the whole thing didn't fall hopelessly flat as it raced towards its climax), then it would be a lot easier to appreciate. But 'The Disappearance of Alice Creed' can never make it over that first hurdle: had Alice Creed been given her proper due (and, really Gemma Arterton is more than game), we could have rooted for her much more easily as the movie progressed and things worsen.

Blakeson seems to be adept at cutting and shooting movies, and his technical expertise (especially while dealing with a budget of under $1 million) is pretty impressive. He also seems to clearly be modeling himself on the early works of Christopher Nolan (and, indeed, Blakeson's next gig is a studio project written by Nolan's brother, Jonathan). Let's just hope, if this is his 'Following,' that he has a 'Memento' in him too.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'The Disappearance of Alice Creed' comes to high-definition on a 25GB Blu-ray disc that is Region A locked.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer (aspect ratio: 2.40:1) does look pretty good. I was worried about the low light levels for much of the film, since that can throw off even the sparkliest of transfers, but thankfully, the disc handles itself well.

The film was shot digitally, and it looks like this transfer was direct-from-the-digital source, without any fussy film intermediates. As such, there aren't any technical imperfections to speak of (the transfer is mercifully noise-free) and I didn't notice any other problems that can plague film-based transfers.

While the general color scheme is quite subdued (there are a lot of pale greens and grays), there is still a feeling of definition and depth throughout the movie, with great details (you can count the peaks of the soundproof stuff they stick up all over the walls). Skin tones look good, black levels are solid (like the "bandit hats" the two criminals wear) and colors (when there are any) pop.

Overall, it's a extremely solid transfer.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The audio on the disc, a Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 lossless job, isn't quite as striking as the video component but it does suit the workmanlike nature of the film well enough.

The biggest compliment that can be awarded this mix is, first and foremost, is that the music sounds really, really great. There isn't a whole lot of surround sound stuff, and even when there is, it doesn't sound all that tremendous, and the movie is a talky little thriller, so the majority of action is front and center, but the music sounds great. It's sweeping and dimensional and totally lush.

I wasn't expecting much from the sound mix (remember, the film's budget was under $1 million and clearly everyone involved considers this a "mood piece" more than an outright "proper thriller") but it would have been nice if the audio had exceeded my expectations in the same way the audio portion did.

There is only one audio option on the disc (save for the commentary) but there are subtitles in English SDH and Spanish.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

All of the extras presented on this disc are also on the standard definition DVD. There are no Blu-ray exclusives.

  • Audio Commentary This audio commentary, with writer-director J. Blakeson, is pretty dry and straightforward. It is, at times, also painfully honest. He describes the clipped editorial style of the film as a deliberate aesthetic choice but also one made from necessity: when shooting on a film this low budget, you don't have time to get a lot of coverage, and thus you have fewer shots, so piecing it together in a faster editing style is an easy way to get around that shortage. If you like the film then the commentary is worth a shot. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Still, it wasn't enough to get me to like the film (he doesn't get into the anti-feminist aspects of the early sequence).


  • Deleted and Extended Scenes There's really only one of each, but they're accessible with commentary from the first-name-less J. Blakeson – "Phones" (SD, 1:43) is the lone deleted scene, which doesn't add much seeing it here; and "Alice Gets the Gun" (SD, 7:42) is the extended scene which just goes on forever and ever and ever and doesn't seem all that different from a sequence that's still in the movie.
  • Storyboard Comparison (SD, 5:32) As is the case with most storyboard comparisons, you look at the storyboards and the finished scenes and think – "Wow, he really stuck to those storyboards!" Next.
  • Outtakes (HD, 4:16) I'm almost as tired of outtakes as I am of storyboard comparisons, especially when they're for such a grim film as this! In a story as perverse as 'The Disappearance of Alice Creed,' this kind of cutting up is sort of sick.
  • Trailer (HD, 1:21) Juicier than the actual movie. Skip.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no HD exclusives.

Final Thoughts

I really hated 'The Disappearance of Alice Creed,' and not just because I disconnected so early. It's a movie that tries really hard to be the "next great British crime movie" but fails completely. It has a certain degree of technical polish, but that can't overcome its narrative shortcomings (instead, rent something like Shane Meadows' 'Dead Man's Shoes' instead and really get blown away). If you like the movie, you could certainly do worse than the Blu-ray, if only for the very strong video quality (audio and supplements are decidedly more lackluster). Everyone else should skip this (and let me know what you think of 'Dead Man's Shoes!')

Technical Specs

  • 25GB
  • Region A

Video Resolution/Codec

  • MPEG-4 AVC
  • 1080p

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby Digital True HD 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, Spanish

Supplements

  • Audio commentary with director J Blakeson
  • Storyboard Featurettes
  • Extended scenes with commentary

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

List Price
$12.97
Amazon
$9.89 (24%)
3rd Party
$7.04
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»