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The Missing (2003)
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Review Date: November 17, 2003
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Ken Kaufman
Producers: Brian Grazer, Daniel Ostroff
Actors:
Cate Blanchett as Maggie Gilkeson
Tommy Lee Jones as Samuel Jones
Evan Rachel Wood as Lily
Plot:
A strong-minded woman, raising two little girls on a farm, is visited by a man who walked out on her and her mom years ago, a man better known as...her father. Livid to see him again, she shoos him away, only to have her older daughter kidnapped by Indians the next day, after which, she swallows her pride and asks her dear ol' pop for help. Together they search through every warehouse, outhouse, doghouse, henhouse, treehouse and shithouse, hoping to find the lost girl.
Critique:
This film is entertaining enough, but nothing particularly memorable, emotional or overly original. It's not going to change the landscape of American cinema, but it's an enjoyable ball of yarn that blends gorgeous scenery with a great performance by Cate Blanchett and a story that never bores, but hangs around a little past its bedtime. Two hours and fifteen minutes with only two lead characters and a chase can only truly maintain its momentum if there is more to the story than just the pursuit, and even though this film does have a little bit of humanity beneath its surface, I didn't get pulled into their circumstance enough to consider the lengthy runtime reasonable. That said, I was never truly bored during the film, unlike another recent "epic" movie with a similar runtime (rhymes with SASTER AND VOMMANDER), and appreciated how things were built up nicely early on, and moved at a decent pace once they all hit the road in search of the missing child. That is, until the very end of the film, when things got a little too "Hollywood" for my taste with everyone and their uncle somehow carrying unlimited ammunition around like it was going out of style, and a "heroic" finale feeling a little too unbelievable. One of the things that I liked the most about this movie was its authentic nature, which reminded me of another better Western film from earlier this year, OPEN RANGE, which is why I felt a little more let down by its ending, which felt a little too "by-the-numbers". Then again, this is a Ron Howard picture after all.

And in typical Howard style, the film will likely entertain most everyone with its heart in the right place, a few thrilling moments, a shoot-out scene or two, a voodoo curse or three and a cameo by a bearded Val Kilmer? (seriously, was that him?) Tommy Lee Jones was "okay" and it was especially nice to see him tackling a role that was a change of pace for him. Instead of being a "tracker" in modern day times, he's a "tracker" during the late 1800s here. Way to stretch those acting muscles, TJ! He did have one of the film's funnier lines though, as he's shooting the shit with his Indian friend between battles and asks if he's still banging that "fat girl" up North. Boys will be boys, eh? Blanchett, on the other hand, continues to impress, playing a headstrong woman, who unlike many ladies of her time, wears the pants in her household, chops wood and even kicks a little bum. She's particularly great during the scene in which she confronts Jones' character early on in the film. Wow...that chick is angry! Another required element in a film of this sort is a believable "bad guy" and I'm happy to report that the Orc-like lead Indian baddie here was scary as shit. The man's crater-face alone scared the beejesus out of me. I also liked how the picture spent just enough time with the enemy to establish their point of view as well. Giving the Indians both a "good" and "bad" side also made sense, despite it feeling like it might have been done on account of political and correctness reasons. All that to say that this film didn't exactly remain ingrained in my mind as I walked out the door, onto the streets and straight into the nearest drinking hole, but it was enjoyable enough to sit through, featured yet another solid performance by the always-reliable Blanchett and sure looked mighty pretty. Now back to the point at hand: was that really Val Kilmer?!?
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian
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