The Missing

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      First, I should mention that my enjoyment of The Missing may have been colored slightly by the people seated next to me in the theatre. On my right was a nice couple who not only talked through the whole movie, but made and received several calls on their cellphone.  On my left was another nice couple who also talked incessantly. When I asked the woman, politely, to please be quiet, she turned to me and said, "no." Such is Friday night at the movies in Baton Rouge. Anyway, I saw The Missing. It is a bit of a throwback, full of bad Apaches kidnapping the pretty young daughters of fine upstanding white ranchers. The plot is a riff off the old John Wayne western, The Searchers. Of course, even though the The Missing is set in New Mexico in 1895, it is directed by Ron Howard in 2003.  So, there are some bad cowboys and some good indians thrown in to even things out. Oh yes, they are "indians." There are no native americans in this movie. Anyway, a woman (Cate Blanchett) with two young daughters (Evan Rachel Wood & Jenna Boyd) is running a ranch with the help of a hunky ranch hand (Aaron Eckhart) who also helps her out in the bedroom. Her father (Tommy Lee Jones), who ran out on the family when Blanchett was a girl, shows up suddenly.  This is quite timely since, almost immediately, Blanchett's older daughter is kidnapped by the bad Apaches. Jones, who literally went native, is enlisted to help track them down. So, Jones, Blanchett and her younger daughter soon ride off in hot pursuit. 

    The cast is great.  Tommy Lee Jones is excellent as always, although he's maybe a bit too tommy-lee-jones-ish here. Cate Blanchett is intense as always and is very believable as the tough rancher.  And Jenna Boyd, ten years old and already doing her second movie with Jones (the first was The Hunted), almost steals the movie. She is the best thing in the movie and she rides a nice horse as well. The other daughter, Wood, is good too, although she mainly gets to scream and moan.  She had a better role earlier this year in Thirteen. There are some good cameos.  Clint Howard makes an appearance, as he always does in his brother's films.  This time he is the Sheriff and is joined by his real-life father, Rance, who plays the telegraph operator. One of the other kidnapped women is Elizabeth Moss.  She seems to specialize in being kidnapped since she also plays Zoey Bartlet on West Wing.  The most bizarre cameo is by a pudgy Val Kilmer as an ineffectual army officer. How the mighty have fallen. Aaron Eckhart (The Core, Possession, In the Company of Men) has a role that isn't much more than a cameo either. But he's good while he's around.

     Ron Howard really wanted to direct a western.  He was set to direct the new version of The Alamo but there was a falling out.  Howard does his usual good job here. He always does. Among his films are A Beautiful Mind (Oscar for Best Director), Apollo 13, Backdraft, and Cocoon. Unfortunately, this isn't that great a movie. It's not the fault of the director and the actors.  Mostly, it's the script that is lacking. While the good guys have fully formed characters, the bad guys, i.e. the Apaches are less than one dimensional.  The main baddie (Eric Schweig) is literally demonized since he is a Brujo and casts evil spells. The story is a trifle predictable.  The screenplay was copied from the cowboy and indian playbook. You know what's going to happen, who is going to die and when. What saves this movie is the beautiful direction and the acting by Jones, Blanchett and Boyd. And maybe you will have a better experience with the hoi polloi at the theatre than I did.