The Missing

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The Missing
Review (7/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

Taking place in the year 1885 in New Mexico, The Missing stars Cate Blanchett as Maggie Gilkeson, a determined "healer" who lives on a ranch with her two daughters Lily (Evan Rachel Wood) and Dot (Jenna Boyd) and her boyfriend Brake Baldwin (Aaron Eckhart). Brake, Lily and Dot leave the ranch one day to head into town when they are sabotaged by a pack of ruthless savages, that includes both Apache Indians and the evil white man. Led by a demonic medicine man Apache known as Chidin (Eric Schweig), Lily is kidnapped and added to a stable of young women that the scoundrels intend to sell to Mexican slave traders. Maggie must save her daughter before she crosses the Mexican border or chances are she will never see her again. She is forced to seek the help of her estranged father, Samuel Jones (Tommy Lee Jones), a man with whom she has not spoken since childhood, when he abandoned his family to join an Indian tribe, a decision of his that is never fully explained.

Going into The Missing, I did not know much about the movie. Based on what I had seen on TV spots and trailers, I knew there was a story about a daughter going missing and it seemed like there would be a big supernatural element to the movie. Although there was a touch of voodoo magic in The Missing, it is a very minor story in the movie. The two main stories are the desperate search for the missing daughter and the strained relationship between Maggie and her father. It is a fairly straightforward movie with not a whole lot going on, but I did find the reasons for the problems between Maggie and her dad were explained too vaguely. Despite the simplicity of the movie, I did enjoy it. The casting in the movie is excellent. Cate Blanchett does a wonderful job in a movie for the second time this year - her first being as Veronica Guerin. She will wrap up her film year in The Return of the King in a few weeks for a very impressive trifecta of movies in 2003. Young Jenna Boyd as Maggie's daughter Dot is equally impressive as the strong-willed little girl, as is Tommy Lee Jones as the tough-as-nails father. Eric Schweig is simply terrifying as the Apache witch doctor, Chidin. Everytime he graces the screen, you will wish him a slow and painful death, which leads me to wonder how offended current day Natives will feel after seeing The Missing. The Natives in the movie are not shown in a good light. One of Samuel's friends, Kayitah (Jay Tavare), shows up midway through the movie and is a very brave Indian, with a good sense of humour to boot, but I fear this may not be enough to deflect attention from how pretty much every other Indian in the movie is depicted. It is hard for me to understand how they might feel since I represent the evil white man in the movie but I guess only time will tell.

Perhaps the only thing I would suggest would have made for a better movie would have been a better ending. The ending was like the rest of the movie - too simple and too generic. And too predictable. I'm sure from just reading this review if you want to guess the ending, you probably have about a 90% chance of getting it right. It is this simplicity in the movie that will prevent The Missing from being the major Oscar contender that some have predicted. There is just not enough substance in this movie for it to garner Oscar buzz. I did like the movie. And the cast really is outstanding. Ron Howard's direction is adequate. And there are some genuine edge-of-your-seat moments in the movie. But it is like eating a hamburger and eating a steak. Sure the hamburger tastes good, will fill your belly and leaves you with a smile on your face. But nothing can beat a nice juicy barbecued steak. The Missing is all hamburger. A really good, filling hamburger. But it ain't no steak.

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