Preview by: Jack Foley
OSCAR-winning director, Ron Howard, has long wanted to do a Western
and reportedly turned down The
Alamo to helm The Missing, a $65 million thriller, starring
Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett.
Early word on the film suggests that it could be an outside Oscar
contender, particularly as it is being released in America on
November 19 - the correct time of year for such things.
Set in the 1880s, near present-day New Mexico, the plot concerns
a wild recluse (Jones), who abandoned his family to live with
the Apache, but who returns decades later to seek a reunion.
Bitterness still lingers in his grown-up daughter, Maggie (Blanchett),
however, but when her own daughter, (Evan Rachel Wood) is kidnapped
by a crazed killer with magical powers, Maggie and her father
are forced to team up to find her.
The film co-stars Aaron Eckhart, Val Kilmer, Simon Baker, and
Jenna Boyd and is being tipped as a possible Oscar contender for
its female performances, with Thirteen's
Evan Rachel Wood again rumoured to have provided another blistering
The film is based upon Thomas Eidson's novel, The Last Ride,
and, according to Howard in an interview with movie website, CountingDown.com,
works on two levels - as 'a very suspenseful rescue story set
in 1886 in Apache territory', and as an authentic look at elements
of the culture clash of that time.
"It's also got unusually strong women characters, especially
for a period frontier movie like that," he adds.
As for the buzz surrounding it, The Hollywood Reporter posted
an article following an interview with Revolution Studios partner,
Tom Sherak, which suggests that Howard has turned in another strong
movie, to add to his already impressive CV (he won an Academy
Award for A Beautiful Mind,
and has also helmed the likes of Apollo 13 and Backdraft).
Sherak is quoted as saying: "We were blown away by the footage
Ron showed us and immediately realized the film's potential. The
film has all the earmarks of a major commercial event."
It may be viewed as a potential Oscar-winner for Ron Howard and
co, but the critics in America were divided over the merits of
the movie, when it opened on November 28.
Some hailed it as another classic, which marked a departure for
the director, while others struggled to find anything to enjoy
In the positive camp was the Chicago Tribune, which hailed
it as 'the best and toughest western since Unforgiven'.
While Entertainment Weekly fell among the negatives, stating
that 'what's missing in The Missing - despite throwing in The
Everything, from magic trinkets to group hugs - is soul'.
The Washington Post was divided, stating that 'in The
Missing, Ron Howard somehow makes a great movie and an awful movie,
all at the same time'.
The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, wrote that 'the master
sentimentalist has made a dark, menacing film, a lean and disturbing
western with some modern subtexts that goes where no Ron Howard
film has gone before'.
While Time Magazine noted that 'Jones, the actor, has
never been more wry, sly and taciturn'.
Less positive, however, was the Hollywood Reporter, which
felt that 'beneath all the requisite genre trappings there's a
vast, empty gulch where the affecting dramatic element should
have been found'.
While the Philadelphia Inquirer hailed it as 'easily the
best western of 2003'.
The New York Times, meanwhile, felt that 'apparently,
the only thing tougher than endurance on the frontier is sitting
through a movie about endurance on the frontier - at least that
is the point The Missing seems determined to make'.
Continuing the mixed response, but falling in the pro camp, is
Variety, which wrote that 'as hard as it may be to reconcile
this as the work of the same director who made How the Grinch
Stole Christmas, the fact remains that Ron Howard has never before
made a picture this raw and alive'.
And the New York Post found it to be 'a good, though not
great, contribution to the genre'.
But the San Francisco Chronicle declared that it is 'a
routine thriller, with Western frills and fringes'.
And the Seattle Times felt that 'despite the actors' hard
work (particularly Blanchett), the whole experience ultimately
has a careful blandness to it, and the family-unity theme is hit
with the subtlety of a hundred hammers'.
The final word, however, goes to CNN, which concluded
that, 'powerful and provocative, The Missing is another masterful
production from one of the industry's best directors and two of
its best actors'.