Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Two alternate endings; 5 deleted scenes;
5 Ron Howard featurettes; Outtake reel; 3 short films; Photo gallery.
RON Howard isnt usually associated with being a tough and
uncompromising director, which makes his Western, The Missing,
all the more striking.
Set in New Mexico, circa 1885, the film is a tense, gripping
character study, with shades of the supernatural, which consistently
manages to bring a fresh perspective to life in the old West.
Based on the 1995 novel, The Last Ride, by Thomas
Eidson, the film finds Cate Blanchett on blistering form as a
feisty mother-of-two, who is forced to reconcile her differences
with her estranged father (Tommy Lee Jones), when her eldest daughter
is kidnapped, to be sold into slavery, by a group of renegade
But while the premise contains plenty of nods to John Fords
seminal Western, The Searchers, it is also a very different affair,
providing a dark, and frequently violent, insight into an unforgiving
land, which is rife with wayward attitudes.
The first half, in particular, provides some harrowing insights
into the barbarity of life on the open plains, courtesy of Eric
Schweigs terrifying Apache witch, who has a habit of slaughtering
the families of the women he kidnaps.
Yet it doesnt merely paint the Indians as renegades, or
the white man as a hero, throwing in plenty of dubious characters
along the way to its taut climax.
Howard proves equally adept at juggling the revisionist elements
of the story, with more traditional family values, while also
providing an effective homage to the classics of the past. Hence,
it has the power to appeal to the purists, as well as those in
search of something more contemporary.
And Howard, who played alongside John Wayne in The Dukes
final film, The Shootist, certainly seems to have remembered how
to ride the genre.
His film refrains from becoming overly-sentimental, yet still
provides a deeply involving story, thriving on the obvious chemistry
between Blanchett and Jones, and neatly avoiding the temptation
to become too heavy-handed.
Viewers must wait to find out Jones motivations for the
decisions he has made, just as Blanchett has to, making the scenes
between them all the more intriguing, while insights into the
Indian way of life, and its mysticism, cannot fail to grip.
There is an inherent sense of danger that permeates proceedings,
which refuses to allow viewers to relax, while the set pieces,
when they arrive, are competently and strikingly handled.
Performance-wise, the movie is also spot-on, with Blanchett especially
strong as the mother who is forced to confront the sense of loss
she has felt throughout her life, when presented with the possibility
of losing her daughter. It is a role which is, at different turns,
vulnerable and angry, but completely root-worthy.
Jones, too, is stronger than he has been for some time, effectively
conveying the inner demons of a complicated man, who is wracked
with regret, yet keen to correct past misdemeanours.
While the support cast is universally good, especially ten-year-old
Jenna Boyd, who delivers a performance that belies her age, as
Blanchetts youngest daughter. Val Kilmer and Aaron Eckhart
also crop up with extended cameos.
The Missing, rather curiously, didnt fare too well with
US audiences, after a mixed response from the critics, but it
would be a tragedy if a similar fate befell it here. This has
all the makings of a classic, and is one of Howards strongest
efforts to date. Make sure it doesnt go missing from your