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The Missing - Preview & US reaction



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 turn.

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."

US reaction

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 whatsoever.

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'.

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