F.I.L.M. of the Week (November 26, 2015)

26 11 2015

Red Road

With the (deservedly) heightened focus on raising the profile of women directors in the film industry, one name springs to my mind among those deserving more opportunities: Andrea Arnold. If you didn’t read through all of Vulture’s 100 Women Directors Hollywood Should Be Hiring, there’s a chance you already saw her name since it falls at the beginning of the alphabet. However, you should look deeper into her imposing body of work and discover the prowess of a master.

I jumped on the Andrea Arnold bandwagon after her 2010 film “Fish Tank” gave me a new vocabulary to make sense of my formative adolescent years but shamefully only just got around to her 2007 debut, “Red Road.” This sparse, tense thriller is “Rear Window” by way of “The Lives of Others” – not a bad start for a director and definitely a deserving pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”

Kate Dickie stars as CCTV operator Jackie, a woman who finds herself so lonely that she begins to internally narrativize the people she observes on her screens. But one day, she takes it a little too far after watching a man and a woman fornicating in an abandoned lot. (Don’t worry, she’s not motivated by pure perversion.) Her target is Tony Curran’s Clyde, a figure with a connection to Jackie’s painful past that she unsuccessfully attempts to bury in her mind.

To say much more would only serve to spoil the suspense Arnold builds throughout “Red Road.” But in her slow burn towards an intriguing end of the road, she gives the viewer ample time to contemplate the ethics of voyeurism and interference. And, now, it makes one wonder how she wrangled the incorrigible Shia LaBeouf for her upcoming film “American Honey.”

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REVIEW: The Disappearance of Alice Creed

7 08 2010

In “The Disappearance of Alice Creed,” two kidnappers (Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston) hold the daughter of a rich businessman hostage for a hefty ransom.  It goes all according to plan in the first stage, but it all seems to go wrong after that due to a series of blunders.

Funny enough, our reaction to the movie echoes all the plot developments.  The movie is gripping for the first thirty minutes, particularly as we watch the kidnappers set up for the abduction and the period following.  There’s something very chilling about how meticulously organized their process is, and it’s made even more eerie by their silence.

In typical minimalist indie fashion, we don’t see the actual kidnapping, but the aftermath is just as scary.  They bring Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton) into a soundproofed apartment where they quickly strip her, gag her, and tie her to a chained-down bed.  And once they have her securely in their grip, the movie starts to lose its grip on plausibility.  The respect that we had built up for it slowly begins to diminish for the next hour until the thriller practically devolves into a comedy.

Just when we expect the movie to wow us with originality, it takes a series of bizarrely typical twists of the genre.  There are all sorts of hackneyed gimmicks designed for a quick thrill.  The situations are robbed of any suspense because we’ve seen it done a million times, and the ultimate unintended result is laughter at their predictability.  In a summer where laughs have been hard to come by, I’ll take them where I can get them.

Really, the unexpected relationships between the characters are the only things unique about the movie.  There are literally three people in it, no extras, no voices on the telephone, no random people in the background.  Just Marsan doing the same old cantankerous villain, Arterton baring it all while getting away from her 2010 tentpole action movies, and Compston making a blip for the first time on my radar.  These aren’t three random people, as we find out.  But for the same of keeping the atmosphere of a thriller in “The Disappearance of Alice Creed,” maybe they should have been.  B /