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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.76%
Worth A Look39.22%
Average: 19.61%
Pretty Bad: 23.53%
Total Crap: 5.88%

4 reviews, 27 user ratings

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Missing, The (2003)
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by Jay Seaver

"Howard probably deserves more credit than he gets for directing spectacle."
3 stars

This is an odd throwback of a Western, featuring vicious, slave-trading Indians (aided and abetted by other, white, Army deserters), but also strong, heroic women. The chase across New Mexico is gorgeously filmed, and the danger both nature and civilization present is realistically presented, but there's also an undercurrent of the supernatural that undercuts a lot of the movie's believability.

A good chunk of that believability comes from star Cate Blanchett. As a single mother of two trying to run a ranch, Blanchett displays the kind of strength that is expected from her. Her character is intelligent, stubborn, and fiercely protective of her children; her anger toward the father who abandoned her and the rest of her family as a child (Tommy Lee Jones) simmers, wholly justified but still powerful enough to destroy her.

Tommy Lee Jones is more problematic. He left his family thirty years earlier to live with the Apache, and director Ron Howard makes great use of Jones's wrinkled, weatherbeaten face. His tendency to not so much overact but be larger than life doesn't quite mesh with the other characters in the early going, though. Even for someone who is supposed to be somewhat alien, not part of the same world as the other characters, he seems too different. His other "great white hunter" role this year, in The Hunted, just seemed to fit the rest of the movie better.

The actresses playing the daughters do well. Evan Rachel Wood already has a decent resume, but she plays a character I like - although her disdain for frontier life may rub some audience members the wrong way, it later becomes clear that although she doesn't want to live like her mother, she has inherited the same sort of strength of will and ability to survive. Ten-year-old Jenna Boyd, as the younger daughter, takes a part that could be very annoying, but emerges likable and believable. Maybe she owes someting to Ron Howard, who by now probably has more experience both directing child actors and being directed as a child actor than anyone else out there.

Howard probably deserves more credit than he gets for directing spectacle, too. The Missing features several big set-pieces, all brought off fairly well. He also directed Backdraft and Apollo 13, and other technically demanding pictures, yet his name isn't mentioned when dream directors for big movies come up (for instance, I think he'd do a great Superman). The picture as a whole isn't his best work - it could be shorter, among other things - but it's still pretty good.

The biggest issue is the film's main villain. Played by Eric Schweig, this Apache "witch" is a caricatured monster - hulking, scarred, playing with snakes, dabbling with supernatural, selling nubile young girls into slavery. He barely speaks, further dehumanizing him. He's so undeveloped relative to the other characters, character-wise, that the writers seem to try to make up for it with viciousness. An odd choice, as well as a politically incorrect one.

It's not the politcal incorrectness I mind, though, but the witchcraft. It's something that sort of fits in a western, emphasizing how untimed the envoironment is, but also plays down the practicality necessary to survive.

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originally posted: 06/04/04 08:48:06
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell boring imho 1 stars
8/24/06 R.W.Welch May be too bleak for many but has some very good performances. 3 stars
6/25/06 MP Bartley Old fashioned oater, but nothing wrong with that. 4 stars
6/06/06 micky very good in deed 5 stars
8/19/05 ES good movie, Cate doesn't need special effects (see LOTR) to sell forboding lines= good film 4 stars
4/10/05 Cheryl Mayfield Pretty crappy, but seeing Cate Blanchett preparing to wipe her butt was worth it. 2 stars
4/04/05 Jim Good, if a touch long. Brujo's curse may explain TLJ in "Man Of The House". 4 stars
1/05/05 clatz A great film, well work a look if you like the genre 4 stars
9/27/04 Agent Sands How refreshing for there to finally be another western, and a great one at that. 5 stars
9/10/04 psycho dwarf 2 Apaches ride into sunset...what's missing? The HERO maybe? They're the VILLAINS moRon! 2 stars
9/08/04 JeffK Surprizingly good. I enjoyed it. 4 stars
6/21/04 Rock Hound If Ron Howard directs another western, I'll lose my faith in Hollywood, and America, too. 2 stars
6/11/04 herkos akhaion The best western I've seen in many years 5 stars
5/07/04 Ross Very good movie. Very good. 5 stars
5/04/04 bsho76 zzzzzzzzzzzzzz 3 stars
3/27/04 Alien Assassin Not bad, but someone other than Ron Howard should have directed this 4 stars
2/04/04 Cheryl Mayfield Pretty crappy, but seeing Cate Blanchett preparing to wipe her butt was worth it. 2 stars
1/25/04 c its a trip, but kinda drawn out. 4 stars
1/21/04 Betty White Ron Howard should never direct again. 1 stars
12/10/03 vagile Parenthood on strong peyote 5 stars
12/10/03 Wolf Too long, too contrived, too brutal. Can't fault TLJ or any cast tho, blame the director. 2 stars
12/06/03 ownerofdajoint go see it/tommy lee jones is great 5 stars
11/29/03 michaelb14 good movie, however it does drag somewhat 4 stars
11/29/03 Jack the Dagger this movie was real long and real boring. predictable and stupid. rental at best 2 stars
11/29/03 Str8Dog learchingly slow at times. NOT a supernatural thriller as the trailers lead you to think 3 stars
11/26/03 David good movie 3 stars
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  26-Nov-2003 (R)
  DVD: 07-Sep-2004



Directed by
  Ron Howard

Written by
  Ken Kaufman

  Tommy Lee Jones
  Cate Blanchett
  Evan Rachel Wood
  Jenna Boyd
  Aaron Eckhart
  Val Kilmer

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