No matter how carefully you plan, no matter how efficiently you work, there's always a chance you'll be thwarted by that most treacherous of villains: your own emotions. That is the lesson of The Disappearance of Alice Creed, and of my experience watching it.
The rational part of me says this movie is ludicrous, pointing out that much of the audience laughed, and I winced, during the parts that were supposed to be tender. But the other part of me enjoyed it, preposterous story line and all. It doesn't matter how implausible -- heck, I'll go with impossible -- certain events are. The whole thing's so straight-faced and tightly edited that you'd have a hard time not getting caught up in it.
The title character, played by Gemma Arterton, has not disappeared at all. Why, she's right in front of us, the whole time! She has been abducted, though, by a pair of meticulous kidnappers. Vic (Eddie Marsan) is a little older than his partner, and clearly more experienced with this sort of thing. Danny (Martin Compston) follows instructions well but has yet to internalize the finer points of abducting girls and extorting ransom money from their rich fathers.
Vic and Danny have planned their scheme down to the last detail. Usually these movies (and the Law & Order: SVU episodes like them) depict the abductors as already having a soundproof bunker in which to guard their captives, like maybe it just came with the place when they bought it. ("Oh, yes," says the landlord. "This room gets very little light and allows no sound to escape. It's perfect for abductions.") I like that Alice Creed shows Vic and Danny building it first. They are pros. They know what they're doing.
And that's about all I can tell you without spoiling anything. Alice is tied up, with no chance of escape, and her father is contacted for ransom purposes. If everything goes according to plan, Alice will be released unharmed and Vic and Danny will be 2 million pounds richer.
But all does not go according to plan, due to the aforementioned pesky human emotions. In the beginning, Alice is in hysterics, Danny is calm but troubled, and Vic is made of steel. Over time, though, each character shows new traits. Even the unflappable Vic proves flappable.
This is the first feature by writer-director J Blakeson (and there is no period after the "J," because J Blakeson is cool like that). When you fear the movie will turn nasty and exploitative, it doesn't. And while I freely admit the basic premise, once it's all revealed, is ridiculous, I also freely admit that I don't care. It's executed in a taut, professional manner, with great suspense and dark humor, and the story is resolved in a satisfying way. It may not be brilliant, but it's savvy and confident, and that counts for a lot.