Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, Evan Rachel Wood, Jenna Boyd, Eric
Schweig, Aaron Eckhart
Director: Ron Howard
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 137 Minutes
Release Date: February 24, 2004
you track him?"
we could track him. But if you catch him, you'll wish you stayed in that
Missing, director Ron Howard is exploring completely new territory as a
filmmaker. Although he's long been a seasoned pro of a director, his Oscar win
for A Beautiful Mind has given Howard the freedom to try out some
material that is 180 degrees different from anything he's ever done in the past.
Even though he's tried out several types of movie genres, from comedy (EDtv)
to adventure (Willow) to suspense thriller (Ransom),
he's never made a movie quite like The
Missing. In fact, no director has made a movie quite like it.
It's very hard to
classify the movie in a single genre. It can very much be labeled a dark
western, yet it contains supernatural elements that aren't usually associated
with westerns. It's also an intense family drama, as well as the tale of an
abduction, the story element which provides the conflict of the story, not to
mention the title. The varied elements are equally spread out, which add up to
quite a unique movie experience.
The story is set in
New Mexico in the year 1885, during the winding down part of the era known as
the Old West. Living on the frontier, Maggie Gilkeson (Cate Blanchett) is a
rancher/resident nurse who lives her two daughters, Lily (Evan Rachel Wood, the
strong young actress from Thirteen)
and Dot (Jenna Boyd). Though not married, she has a companion in Blake Baldwin
(Aaron Eckhart), who is also hired help on the property.
During one evening,
Maggie's life is interrupted by the unexpected appearance of her estranged
father, Samuel Jones (Tommy Lee Jones), who comes back into her life hoping to
reconcile. Years back, before Maggie had her children, Samuel abandoned his wife
and daughter to live with and become one of the Apache tribe. Stunned and upset
by the sudden visit, Maggie doesn't want anything to do with him, and requests
that he leave at once.
Despite her enmity
for her father, it all must be put aside when Maggie discovers Lily has been
taken away by a band of army deserters led by an Apache Indian named Chidin
(Eric Schweig). Before long, Samuel and Maggie saddle up, along with youngest
daughter Dot, to begin a pursuit. Since Samuel is knowledgeable of the Apache,
he can track them to the missing daughter's location. The only catch is the
Apache who took her away is also sort of a phantom witch and capable of
The pursuit of Lily
allows time for Maggie to ease away her harsh feelings towards her father, as
the two begin to reconnect. They also manage to have a few deadly run ins with
the incompetent army, bloodthirsty rattlesnakes, several dead bodies, and mother
nature. Meanwhile, Lily finds herself part of a group of kidnapped women, who
are being prepped to being sold as prostitutes in Mexico, where the deadly
Apache is leading them to.
Every aspect of The
Missing is very involving and compelling. Everything from the realized
characters to the brief moments of action keeps the viewer hooked in. Howard has
made the look of his film quite remarkable, too. The cinematography captured by
Salvatore Totino is unique and breathtaking, as it takes advantages of the wide
open landscapes of New Mexico and makes them look entirely different than it
would in a traditional western. The images in The
Missing are striking and much memorable.
The movie also gets
the bonus of some strong performances, most notably on behalf of Mr. Jones and
Ms. Blanchett. For Jones, this serves as a break from the "tough guy"
roles he usually endures. Samuel is more of a wise, if somewhat complex, person,
requiring the rugged Jones to turn in a much more restrained performance, which
is mostly convincing. And Cate Blanchett is ultimately believable as the lead
heroine. She makes Maggie into a strong and determined woman, willing to go
through hell to get back her daughter. Blanchett is already being labeled as the
next Meryl Streep, and her work here definitely illustrates why she's is labeled
The film's only
flaw is that it is a little too long. As the story nears the end, a few
prolonged exchanges between characters seem to go on longer than they need to
and don't feel necessary this late in the game. Clearly, this may have been a
casualty of the editing department.
Missing is a unique journey of a movie. It's probably Ron Howard's most risky
project to date, as well as his darkest piece of work yet. Compelling
performances, haunting suspense, and incredible cinematography highlight this
enjoyable and, at times, original western.
Columbia Tri Star
is already having a dynamite year with the performance of their releases, and The
Missing is yet another addition to the studio's long list of
quality-defining releases. The anamorphic picture is simply stunning for the
eyes, and most remarkable to gaze upon. In both day and night sequences, for
which there are both equal amounts of, the clarity and overall sharpness of the
picture don't hold back for a second. The wonderful cinematography looks even
more astounding, providing endless amounts of detail. A full screen version is
Equal praise on the
part of the audio transfer. CTS' 5.1 offering succeeds in both moments of action
and suspense, as well as the more quiet portions of the movie. The set pieces
used in the New Mexico setting provide simple things as the wind blowing in the
background to flow through the channels effortlessly. The score by James Horner
is delivered much strongly, and the moments of suspense and action speak for
themselves in terms of sound power. Dialogue is, of course, clear and clean as
I was caught by
surprise by the notion that this was a 2-Disc release. I had no early knowledge
of just how much was going to be included on this disc. Needless to say, I am
much happy to be surprised.
Disc 1 includes
commentary with Ron Howard, a soundtrack spot and a trailer gallery featuring
trailers for this movie, as well as these CTS DVD and Theatrical releases: Hellboy,
Spider-Man 2, 13 Going on 30, Resident Evil 2: Apocalypse, Big Fish, Something's
Gotta Give, Panic Room, The Statement, The Devil's Backbone, and The
Disc 2 has even
more. It includes eleven featurettes, eleven deleted scenes, three alternate
endings, a photo gallery, and three short films by Ron Howard.
Missing is a surprising and intriguing hybrid of western and supernatural
thriller. Ron Howard has proven here that he is capable of doing more edgy and
darker material. The atmosphere and compelling performances by the leads make it
all the more satisfying.