January 23, 2011


The debut feature film from J Blakeson, this British thriller is a fairly solid film, packed with twists, turns and character reveals and reversals. It's not as smart as it thinks it is, but it is certainly better than a lot of what passes for a thriller film nowadays (I'm looking at you M. Night).

It's an impressive debut, and Blakeson begins things pretty boldly: the first 15 minutes has absolutely no dialogue as the two kidnappers prepare a non-descript English flat for their abductee. It's a bold stylistic choice (perhaps not as out-there bold as Buried's start on absolute black) and we can see from the get-go that these two have planned this whole thing out, that they're two criminals used to working together. It's bold and stylish, but also (and more importantly) it helps to inform the characters and the situation. But as the film progresses no-one is as in control as they think.

Although on-the-rise young British actress (and former Bond girl) Gemma Arterton plays the titular character, she does not overly dominate proceedings. She may be the biggest name in the cast and get the biggest dramatic stuff (she is abducted and humiliated after all), but this is a solidly well-played three-hander of a film. Martin Compston is the junior partner of the kidnapping duo and he's a weasley wee bastard; you can see his switch in allegiances in his eyes. Eddie Marsan is the senior partner and he's the planner; the boss. He's a man of violence, but with a softer side. Marsan is one of those actors that just brings something to his performances: he was great in the small role of Inspector Lestrad in Sherlock Holmes and it's great to see him here, doing something completely different. 

And after Anne Hathaway's performance in Love & Other Drugs, it's great to see another brave performance from a young actress. And, no, not in a dirty pervy they-get-nekkid kinda way. No, brave not just in terms of physical nudity but of being stripped down emotionally; in the case of Gemma Arterton somewhat brutally so. She is thrown, literally, into an awful, frightening situation; one that humiliates and demeans her and that she may very well not live through but one in which she will fight, if she can. It's sad that there aren't more great roles for actresses out there: too often they're merely the love interest, or the side-kick or the damsel in distress. I belive it's getting better, but there's a long way to go yet.

Twist upon twist, and character shift upon character shift, is piled on and you can become dizzy from the revelations and shifting allegiances. This is a smart, involving and solid wee film anchored by three pitch-perfect performances (say that 10 times really fast) and while the film isn't as smart as I believe it wants to be, it is certainly a better than average thriller that will have you engaged and wishing we could have more intelligent films like this, and more excellent roles for great actresses. And I think Blakeson's next could be even better.

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