The Disappearance of Alice Creed, J Blakeson, 100 mins (18)
Revanche, Götz Spielmann, 121 mins (15)
The Milk of Sorrow, Claudia Llosa, 95 mins (12A)

A clever vanishing act, a twisty film noir, and a touching, funny Peruvian fable

One of cinema's immutable laws dictates that if a would-be criminal tells his accomplice that their plan can't possibly go wrong, that's the cue for the gods to roll up their sleeves and chuckle: "Wanna bet?"

It's a law that's obeyed by two films this week, although one of them, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, is clever enough to fool us that the crooks might actually have a fighting chance of success. The film begins with a dialogue-free montage which shows two men, Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston, making methodical preparations for a kidnapping. Like the handymen on a perverse episode of Changing Rooms, they steal a van, shop for tools, and fit a room with padlocks and sound-proofing, all with no fuss and no mistakes. Even when they snatch their attractive victim, Gemma Arterton, there's none of the customary banter, lechery, or violence. It's an economical, snappily edited opening which announces that these guys know what they're doing. And, by extension, the first-time writer-director, J Blakeson, knows what he's doing, too.

The rest of the film can't keep up the same breathless pace, but it's still a craftily engineered piece of work. The entire production has a cast of three – no police, no news reporters, no bystanders – and most of it is set in a one-bedroom flat, all without seeming contrived or stagey. If anything, Blakeson pares down the action and dialogue a fraction too far. There's only so much that can happen in such a confined space, and the film reveals so little about the characters that we don't ally ourselves with any of them.

In the end, The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a calling card: you're more likely to admire its thrifty resourcefulness than to be absorbed in its story. But it's certainly impressive enough to make you wonder what Blakeson could conjure up with a cast of, say, four or five.

This week's other criminals with an absolutely fool-proof plan can be found in Revanche. One of them, Johannes Krisch, is a burly Robert Carlyle-lookalike who works as a dogsbody in a Viennese brothel. The other is his Ukrainian girlfriend, Irina Potapenko, who works there as a prostitute. Understandably, Krisch isn't too happy with their respective careers, so he decides to clear their debts by robbing a bank in the village near his grandfather's tumbledown farm.

Meanwhile, we're also introduced to an insecure rookie policeman and his wife (Andreas Lust and Ursula Strauss) who have just decorated their dream home across the woods from the same village. Uh-oh.

I hope it's not giving away too much to report that the bank robbery doesn't go smoothly. If I go any further into the plot, I definitely will give too much away, but the characters' lives intertwine in a number of ways, some expected and some not. The writer-director, Götz Spielmann, doesn't resort to any manipulative thriller gimmicks – apart, arguably, from some repeated shots of a very worrying circular saw – and instead he lets Revanche unfold as a thoughtful drama which examines the aspirations and regrets of a small knot of people, some of whom may be bearing guns and grudges. It takes its time, but it gradually accrues all the ironies, twists and tension of a classic film noir. Fans of Fargo and A Simple Plan should see it now before it's remade in Hollywood. You can't go wrong.

Revanche was nominated for 2009's Best Film in a Foreign Language Oscar. One of this year's nominees in that category was The Milk of Sorrow, a sparkling Peruvian film which trips lightly between comedy and drama, magic-realist fable and social-realist document. At its heart is a withdrawn young woman (Magaly Solier) traumatised by the horrific tales her mother has told her, or rather sung her in improvised folk ballads, about the atrocities committed during the Shining Path uprising. It's not until the old woman's death that her daughter ventures beyond her mountaintop village to get a job as a concert pianist's maid in Lima. Not many films are this delicate and touching, while still leaving room for jokes about icing a message on a cake for someone who can't read.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber sees the return of the gorgeous Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street, and the terrifying Jennifer Lopez in The Back-Up Plan

Also Showing: 02/05/2010

The Last Song (107 mins, PG)

Miley Cyrus gets rebellious – that is, she wears a hoodie – in the latest tear-jerking romance to be adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel. It's almost indistinguishable from Sparks' Dear John, which came out a fortnight ago, right down to the southern colonial mansions, the terminal cancer and the blond hunk who's first seen flashing his pecs on a beach. Stay away if you're male and/or older than 15.

Gentlemen Broncos (89 mins, 12A)

Jared Hess, director of Napoleon Dynamite, returns with this wilfully silly comedy about a home-schooled teenager (Michael Angarano) who has his sci-fi novel plagiarised by the writer he idolises. Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement is so funny as the blow-dried author that I came out wishing that he'd based a one-man show on the character instead.

A Boy Called Dad (80 mins, 15)

Sub-Grange Hill drama in which a 14-year-old boy goes on the run with his six-month-old son. It's well meaning, but it makes looking after a baby seem about as arduous as keeping a pet gerbil.

24 City (107 mins)

Eight Chinese men and women recount their poignant life stories in a series of monologues – some scripted, some genuine interviews – as the munitions factory that links them all is dismantled.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

    My George!

    Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
    10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world