ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Missing: clear artistic vision
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Tommy Lee Jones, Jenna Boyd
Directed by: Ron Howard
By Mark Polishuk
The Missing is, no pun intended, missing something.
Gazette file photo
ARE YA LOOKIN’ FOR, KID? Oh yeah, you’re trying to find
what’s missing. Jenna Boyd stars as Dot in The Missing.
It’s not a bad movie by any stretch; director Ron Howard has crafted
a perfectly serviceable story of vengeance and redemption. The plot centres
around Maggie Gilkeson (Blanchett), a doctor living on a New Mexico ranch in
1885 with her two daughters and her lover/ranchhand Brake (Aaron Eckhart).
One day, what appears to be an old native man comes to the ranch in need of
treatment, but it is really Samuel (Jones), Maggie’s estranged father
who left her years ago to join a native tribe.
Maggie wants nothing to do with her father, but is forced to enlist his help
when Brake is murdered and her eldest daughter Lily (Evan Rachel Wood) is kidnapped
by a gang of native soldiers gone renegade from the U.S. army. These soldiers,
led by their mystic leader Chidin (Eric Schweig), are kidnapping girls with
the intent to sell them across the border in Mexico. Maggie, Samuel and the
youngest daughter Dot (Boyd) set out to get Lily back, while Samuel is also
on a quest of a larger sort to try and atone for his past mistakes with Maggie.
All the elements are here for a good ol’ fashioned Western, but the
script could have used a bit of trimming. There is too much time wasted on
Lily’s futile attempts to escape her captors and by the third instance,
the audience knows she’s not going anywhere. Similarly, Dot continually
keeps getting Maggie and Samuel into trouble and the excuse that “she
would’ve followed us anyway” is a pretty poor reason for taking
a young child along to face a group of killers.
The final showdown between the heroes and villains is also drawn out and suffers
from incredulity when the aged Samuel goes toe-to-toe with the apparently supernatural
Chidin. At this point in his life, the only person Tommy Lee Jones should be
able to square off against is Robert Redford in a “whose skin is more
All kidding aside, Jones’ performance is as solid as you would expect
and Blanchett’s is good enough to hold up her reputation as one of the
better actresses in movies today. Wood and Boyd also give good performances,
avoiding the dreaded “child actor” moments that can sometimes ruin
No doubt Howard’s own experience as a child star came in handy while
directing them, perhaps the one situation where he was the right director to
guide this movie. He has made some terrific films in the past and is the sort
of versatile director who can work in any genre: comedy (Parenthood), drama
(A Beautiful Mind), sci-fi (Cocoon), kids’ movies (The Grinch), biopic
(Apollo 13) and movies that degenerate into axe battles (Backdraft).
On the one hand, Howard has range, but you could also say there is no such
thing as a “Ron Howard film” in terms of a recognizable style.
He is a director at the mercy of his script, without the innate artistic ability
to rise above average material. It takes a better director than Howard to rise
above the limitations inherent to The Missing as a Western, the film genre
that is perhaps more restricted than any other in terms of clichés.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with The Missing and it’s worth
a rental if not a rush out to the theatre. Given the talent involved in the
production, however, it’s clear that what was “missing” was
a clear artistic vision.