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By Clint Morris | November 24, 2003

In “The Missing”, Cate Blanchett again switchs her ever-changing visor to play Maggie Gilkeson (Blanchett), a single mum tending to her New Mexico property with daughters Lily (Evan Rachel Wood) and Dot (Jenna Boyd) in 1885. She’s tough, controlling and a woman of women. When her eldest is kidnapped by Apache warriors, Maggie must team with her estranged father [Tommy Lee Jones], a wannabe Indian who’s been wandering the hills for years, to hunt down the ruthless culprits and bravely rescue their own. Whilst trying to reform some sort of relationship with the father that abandoned her all those years ago.
Sooner or later, even the most easily brainwashed cinemagoer is going to come to the realization that the combination of fine actors and fine directors doesn’t always make for the best movies. For instance, how many times have you heard someone say they went and saw the latest film starring so-and-so (usually a big star) only to come out disappointed? They usually give you an ‘oh, it was ok’ answer. Not very reassuring is it? Ron Howard’s a good filmmaker. We know that. We’ve seen him do some good comedies (“Splash”, “ED TV”), some fun adventure flicks (“Willow”), some good dramas (“Backdraft”) and even a couple of knockouts (“A Beautiful Mind”, “Payback”). Cate Blanchett’s a good actress, she astonishes in every thing she does. Tommy Lee Jones isn’t half bad either, he seems to be able to slip on the shoes of any such character and make the audience believe he’s that person. What people don’t take into consideration, though, is that as great as these folks might be on their own, all the elements have to be in place to make a great flick – and as is often the case, that doesn’t always happen.
“The Missing” is a good movie. Let’s get that out of the way. It’s probably near very good. The performances are great, the chemistry between the two leads is very good, and Ron Howard again proves himself a slick hand behind the camera. But like a lot of these power-packed pictures, there’s just something missing. In this case, it’s the air-freshener that’ll keep the ‘been there, done that’ aroma from creeping too much into proceedings. From the setting to the characters and mostly, the plot, nothing hear smells very fresh. You could’ve sworn you watched this on TV one night, because it plays out so much not unlike a lot of other person-taken-hostage-must-rescue movie. Tom Berenger and Sidney Poiter did it in “Deadly Pursuit” (1988), and to further illustrate the fact that it’s old-hat, Tommy Lee Jones did it about twelve months before this in the very underwhelming “The Hunted”, in which he chased killer Benicio Del Toro around rough terrain for an hour and a half. Most of the blame falls on the shoulders of screenwriter Ken Kaufman, who took Thomas Eidson’s novel, and turned in a screenplay that plays out very straight, never packing much of a surprise and as conventional as the headwear director Howard was probably using on his head to shun the sun. Not only that, but it’s a long journey. Too Long. An editor was so dearly needed, and perceptibly he had the day off that day.
If it’s a bit of a holiday from the demanding, gritty pictures, it looked Howard wanted to do from “Ransom” onwards, he’s succeeded. And if you leave your skepticism at home, and don’t go to “The Missing” looking for the next big Oscar potential, you’ll have a good time. It is quality entertainment. There’s lot of action, thrills, adventure and some great landscape on show. It mightn’t be quite worth that sumly amount you paid for the first night screening, but some will enjoy it more than others – Probably those who’ve seen little in the way of films this decade.

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