Dark and perverse suspense story is more complicated than average hostage thriller
A couple of blokes meticulously prepare a sound-proofed room in an isolated building at a remote location. Then they kidnap a young woman off a city street and take her to the room, where they strip her naked, handcuff her to a bed, and take photographs that they send out attached to an e-mailed ransom note.
That’s in just the first couple of reels of this three-character suspense tale that comes on like a very kinky hostage thriller but keeps changing into something a little different and a lot more complicated. The kinky premise is for real, but the kidnap scheme starts getting derailed early on, and pretty soon it becomes evident that the customary chase-and-rescue action between cops and kidnapper/criminals is never going to be a factor in this film.
Instead, first-time director J Blakeson and his canny cast of three immerse themselves in a quirky, dark-humored misadventure in which plot twists and twists of perverse character get multiply entangled. The victim is not at all inclined to be helpless and submissive, and besides, she recognizes one of her masked captors. The kidnappers are a matched pair of small-time outlaw dreamers, partners in crime and much else, but both have personal agendas kept at least half-secret from the other.
The resulting three-way psychodrama is part comedy of errors, part absurdist film noir, part twisted romantic triangle, with victims and captors trading cheap shots, dirty tricks, and a full array of ironic role reversals. The disappearance in the title seemingly refers to the kidnapping, but it has a second perversely amusing meaning that becomes evident only when the eponymous victim/heroine brings the story’s ultimate twist into view.
Echt-punk Eddie Marsan is characteristically stinging and sharp as the older and more domineering of the two kidnappers. Martin Compston makes a good foil for Marsan as the younger kidnapper, but Blakeson’s script leaves him stuck with a load of complexities that defies even a crime-story level of credibility. Gemma Arterton’s deviously spunky Alice is the film’s one real saving grace.