The Missing movie poster
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The Missing movie poster

The Missing Movie Review

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In his follow-up to the award-winning A Beautiful Mind, director Ron Howard goes the western route with a dramatic thriller that yet again proves that, if done right, the western genre is far from going extinct.

Cate Blanchett and Tommy Lee Jones star as estranged daughter and father who set out to track down a pack of "Indians" that have kidnapped Blanchett's daughter and are taking her to Mexico to sell her as a sex slave. Blanchett, who is known for playing powerful women (Elizabeth, The Gift and most recently Veronica Guerin), is equally tough here, as a mother who is willing to do anything to get her daughter back. Blanchett is very believable, and this is easily one of her best performances to date. Unfortunately, since this movie is essentially a western thriller, the job she has done will not be noticed come Oscar time. As for Tommy Lee Jones, who has repeatedly played tough-as-nails characters with sarcastic wit (and is effective nearly every time), is no different here, as he plays a white-turned-Indian who knows just what to do in every circumstance. He is always fun to watch, and The Missing is no exception, though his character seems a little too modern for the movie. Some of his lines just seem out of place, and aside from the long hair and occasional "Indian" sayings never really struck me as someone who had been living with such people for 20 years. He does a good job at being the character at hand, but that character isn't exactly right for the movie.

What might catch people off guard the most is the fact that The Missing is more drama than action, and is not even slightly spooky, despite the misleading previews that suggested much eerier stuff. One of my friends refused to go see this movie because she thought that it was going to be scary. In truth, I was expecting some spooky scenes as well, but The Missing has none of that. Instead, it is a tense drama that inevitably is going to end up at a showdown between the good guys and the bad guys, with a few action scenes thrown in for good measure. A lot of the movie, while never boring, does deal with the progressing relationship between Blanchett and Jones (at the beginning of the film, she refuses to even call him her father).

The Missing is a beautiful movie to watch, helped by Ron Howard. Howard has done many exceptional films over the years, and technically this one is just as good; every scene is well done. Though he does draw some scenes out quite a bit (10 or 15 minutes less would have been nice), the film is never boring and much of the time is at least somewhat thrilling. The action scenes are effective but not superb; I never really felt absorbed and enthralled by the action, something that happens in the really good movies (like the final fight sequence in this year's other western, Open Range). There is a lot of shooting and some thrilling moments, but the action scenes could have been better.

Though the movie draws thin in one or two places, The Missing is an effective thriller with good acting and some really exciting moments. Looking at its struggling box office performance, this film may end up becoming the lost film of winter, but it shouldn't be.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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