Warmly received at the London and Toronto Film Festivals, the first feature from J Blakeson (yes, just the initial, though we gather he’s a he) offers a taut, tight masterclass in less-is-more.
The opening sets out the minimalist stall – 10 dialogue-free minutes as two men, with grim professionalism, cruise the aisles of a DIY store then refashion the bedroom of a tatty suburban flat into a soundproofed jail, with Marc Canham’s score revving up the tension.
It’s clear enough a snatch is in the offing – but what sets The Disappearance apart is the pared-down economy of its execution. Just three players, with not even the odd strolling extra in the background. Eddie Marsan (older, creepy, controlling) and Martin Compston (younger, nervous, flakey) are Vic and Danny, the two kidnapping ex-cons.
And as Alice, the poor little rich girl held for ransom, ex-007 girl Gemma Arterton triumphantly extends her range. Bond-style glamour’s a distant memory as the agonised, vulnerable Alice is stripped naked, hooded, shackled to a bed, forced to piss in a bedpan and crap in a bucket and (as if the poor girl hadn’t suffered enough) made to wear a lilac jumpsuit.
The austerity of the concept, distilling all the plot elements down to their essence, leaves Blakeson free to concentrate on the claustrophobic details of the set-up, the friction and psychological interplay between the three.
Because, as you’ll have guessed, in this triangular relationship nothing’s quite what it seems, and as twist follows twist, Vic’s scrupulously devised plan starts to fray at the edges and gradually, inevitably unravel. Recommended.
A gripping little twister that takes a basic kidnap plot and a minimal cast and plays them for all they’re worth, while shades of Shallow Grave abound in the rampant mind games. As character dynamics turn increasingly toxic all three actors excel, but Arterton is a revelation.