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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is about New Mexico, not Arizona, and therefore deals with some
elements of Southwestern frontier life that either are left out of most
"Westerns" or are portrayed in a completely different way.
The first element is "mixed blood" persons. Although it is never clear whether Tommie Lee Jones' character is a white man living as an Apache, or is a "mixed blood," of bi-racial parents, who tries to live as both white and Apache, it doesn't matter. What matters about is that we see that only the bad people, of both races, resent him. The good people of each race -- eventually -- accept him for who he is.
The second element is the general representation of English settlers. Whenever an English person is shown in a Western movie it is either as a silly dude or an arrogant gunslinger. But most English were, like Mr. John Tunstall the rancher, from Canada, and were accustomed to the roughness of frontier life. So, here, Cate Blanchett first appears on-screen in an outhouse holding a wad of catalog paper.
The third element is the matter of social hypocrisy. Oscar Wilde (who once visited the American West) said, "Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue." Thus, Cate Blanchett insists her occasional bed-mate never sleep with her when visitors are present on the homestead. Rather, he should keep up appearances, and sleep in his usual bed, in the bunk house. In other frontier movies unmarried cohabitation is either flaunted or causes great anxiety and guilt for the participants. But here, the characters of Cate Blanchett and Aaron Eckhart realistically consider their behavior to be decent and civilized.
The fourth difference has to do with the U.S. Army of the day (the 1880s). Val Kilmer is perfect as a well-intentioned officer who is unable or unwillling to take charge of them. To him, the mission must be defined by headquarters, not by the obvious facts. Thus stripped of initiative, he becomes more of a hindrance to peace in New Mexico Territory than a help. Some viewers may find themselves wishing, "At least he could be evil!" but it is not to be. Kilmer's character embodies that great grayness of real life that Western movies try to clarify as black and white.
Five: Sexual slavery. Yup, folks, girls are being kidnapped and sold into slavery elsewhere, for sexual purposes. This was not unusual in New Mexico. This movie makes it horribly clear that for sexual purposes a stupid girl is as good as a smart one, an ugly one as good as a pretty one, an unpleasant one as good as a pleasant one. Nope, these girls are kidnapped for only one quality, which as girls they all have equally.
The sixth element which distinguishes this from other Westerns is the relationship of death and heroism. The heroism here is not the usual kind in Westerns because it requires the hero to die. Otherwise, even if he was successful in his mission, he would've been simply more powerful than the villain, or luckier, and neither of those are moral qualities. The only other stories where this is typical behavior is in Nordic stories -- the only Viking heroes are dead, and they are heroes because they willingly died in order to achieve their goals. The Norse heaven, Valhalla, is filled with men who died trying.
The last difference is the substance of the villain. The bad guy here is a "brujo," an Apache witch-man. But he is not the usual "renegade medicine man" or fiercely-proud-but-understandably-misguided warrior. Nope, he captains supernatural forces that most viewers normally associate with wolfmen, vampires and so on. He really is evil, and his skills are greater than Cate Blanchett's (she's a Christian healer). He is brilliantly portrayed by Eric Schweig, whom most viewers probably have seen only as the young Mohican in 1992's "The Last of the Mohicans." Schweig is one of those actors who are usually assigned Indian roles because of their faces -- and probably become dispirited after a few years, when they realize that no one can or will write a role for them that is anything more than the usual. There are only a handful of actors, of any race, who could've done justice to this this "brujo" role. Schweig is so good here that the movie would've been a "tour de force" for him had not Tommie Lee Jones' dramatic experience stood in his way. In real life, Schweig is a mixed-blood Canadian, and a maker of excellent masks. No one will ever let him play Hamlet, because of his race, but maybe now screenwriters will see that serious roles can actually be written for actors such as he.
In short, if you know New Mexico you'll deeply appreciate this movie, and tip your hat to director Ron Howard if you ever see him.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In Nineteenth Century New Mexico, Maggie Gilkeson (Cate Blanchett) is a
lonely rancher and healer, living alone with her two daughters, the
teenager Lily Gilkeson (Evan Rachel Wood) and the ten years old girl
Dot Gilkeson (Jenna Boyd), and her assistant and lover Brake Baldwin
(Aaron Eckhart) and the employee Emiliano (Sergio Calderón). When her
absent father Samuel Jones (Tommy Lee Jones), of whom Maggie feels
grief for leaving her when she was a child, visits the Gilkeson's
family, Lily is kidnapped with other local women by a group of rebel
apaches to be sold as slave in Mexico. The Indians, leaded by "el
brujo" (the witch) Pesh-Chidin (Eric Schweig), kill Brake and Emiliano,
and Maggie, having no other person to support her beyond the young Dot
in the search for Lily, asks her father to track the captives. The
weird trio follows the kidnappers, being the beginning of a spectacular
low paced story. "The Missing" is a magnificent contemporary western,
having a great plot with drama, mysticism, action and thriller. The
characters are slowly developed in a very consistent way, and have
outstanding performances of Cate Blanchett (as usual), Tommy Lee Jones
and the starlet Jenna Boyd. The locations are stunning, and the
soundtrack is very powerful. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Desaparecidas" ("Missing")
Ron Howard did not intend to make a straight up Western movie. That's the
first problem here. Howard didn't want The Missing to be identified with a
specific genre. This is part Western, part period drama, part mystical
thriller, part action movie. Using several genres to make this unique could
have worked, if Howard had combined them all in one. But the problem is that
he seemed to keep changing his mind every 25 minutes of screentime. At first
it's a period drama about a family, then it's a western, then it's an action
movie, then it's a mystical thriller. There was no consistency with what the
story was supposed to be. To add to this, The Missing was too long. I have
no problem with long movies. I don't mind movies that are 3:30 hours long,
if every scene feels like it belongs and is relevant. But here, there are
several scenes that could have been cut. And going back to my complaint
about there not being a specific genre, I think it could have worked if it
was only a period drama/action/western. But when it got into the mystical
Indian witchcraft, I checked out. We had more than an hour and a half
building this up as a legitimate and realistic dramatic film taking place in
the western time period, and all of a sudden, it's a fantasy movie. If it
had been about mystical Indian witchcraft from the start, those scenes would
not have been out of place. But to spring it on the audience the way it was
done, it was totally out of place.
I feel a little weird making my complaints about The Missing, because I actually did enjoy watching it, for the most part. I thought it built an interesting story and I was satisfied with how it concluded. Tommy Lee Jones is at his best since Rules Of Engagement. Cate Blanchett was without a doubt at her best since Elizabeth. And the dialogue is fantastic, as is the Cinematography. James Horner surprise me with his score. It was different from what I'm used to him doing. I loved the story and thought it was entertaining to watch. So why doesn't The Missing work as well as it could have? Simply because Ron Howard had a very ambitious idea about how to make a Western movie different and unique, but didn't spend quite enough time developing it. If Howard had taken an extra 6 months of pre-production, I'm convinced this could have been the brilliant movie that Howard probably had a vision for.
Very reminiscent of 'The Searchers', probably the best of the John
Wayne-John Ford teamups, 'Missing' plays better as a thriller set in the
West, than as a 'mystical Western' (which is what I think it was really
going for). Predictably excellent performances from Cate Blanchett, Tommy
Lee Jones, and a fantastic performance from Eric Schweig as the Apache
doctor. I was surprised to discover the film was mostly dumped on by
in the US, and bombed there. It's had a much better response here, as I
think it should have. Look out also for Evan Rachel Wood, so good in
'Thirteen', as the older of Blanchett's two daughters. This ranks as Ron
As a 'local' Arizona long-time US southwestern resident and
historian, I have to bite my lip occasionally at many of the ridiculous
reviews for this excellent Ron Howard film.
It's so easy to spot the ignorant
For all their emotion about this film, most reviewers' clichés, inaccurate statements, mistaken references, mis-understood, mis-referenced or mis-opted views of 'Western movies' (let alone, southwestern history, and general mis-direction of history en toto), grossly reveal the puerile, Hollywood brain-damage
Pity they could have learned a lot if they only KNEW. Not only is Ron Howard's effort well-directed, it's very historically accurate. Point-in-fact: his acting crew, notably Tommy Lee Jones, had to learn whole sentences/paragraphs in the Apache-ne-Athe(p/b)ascan derivative language (as well as their meanings), in not just short, 'indian' phrases as in most 'Western-style' films, but to those which accurately depict the spoken word of the time. None less than Elbys Huger, Berle Kanseah and Scott Rushforth did Howard employ as linguist-teachers for the actors for accuracy (please, do your research). In addition, western settlers at that time on the southern borders of New Mexico and Arizona were vilely subjected to early forms of terrorism in the southwest including what you see on-screen. Those bands of Mescalero/Chiricahua natives were normally (though not totally) averse to kidnapping young, white females of European descent for slave-trading from western settlers (as well, married adult females). However, and in particular addition, rituals of northern-Sonoran Indians Yaqui (there were other tribes) vastly apart from Cochise's band of Chiricahua Apaches, were especially ruthless against 'whites', employing those very diatribes Eric Schwieg (aka, 'el brujo', 'Pesh Chidin') perpetrated against western immigrants. And, BTW, Schwieg was absolutely SUPERIOR in the role the man surely deserved not only credibility, but Oscar consideration he is that good; if you knew only a sliver of southwestern history, you'd know his portrayal is not only authentic, but well-portrayed (eastern-USers, Canadians, take note you've no conscience of southwestern US history unless you've studied/lived it mark my word, Pilgrim).
Re/ The Entertainment value: - TLJones: always a distinct pleasure, thank you Thomas extraordinarily well-done, and one of your very best efforts applauses; how-went the linguistics for the film? - Ms. Cate Blanchett: as well, extraordinary effort; you are, still, a gem-in-the making, and exceptionally well-suited for the part truly, WELL DONE you exemplified the character. Where did you learn about the southwest of the US??) - Jay Tavare: your portrayal of 'Kayitah' was exemplary and believable. Nice going! You have more Hollywood parts in your future stay with it. - Steve Reevis: "Two Stone" you should have been cast earlier in larger roles. Enjoyed you in 'Last of the Dogmen' - Even, Jenna: stay with it - in a few years you may think about changing your mind maybe even now; you both have the energy how badly do you want it??
9.5/10 -- believe it; or buy a history book and educate yourself about the REAL southwestern US
The premise of this film that the main character (played by Cate Blanchett) is a rancher and doctor living in the wilds of New Mexico. Her daughter is kidnapped by a group of outlaws led by a psychopathic witch doctor. At the same time, her estanged father (played by Tommy Lee Jones) enters her life, and she is faced with her deep hatred of him, weighed against her need for his help. The rest of the story I won't give away.
I've read whisperings of Oscar nominations, which may be a fair statement, but although these rumors have been directed towards Blanchett, I would say that Jones had the stronger performance. Blanchett was excellent as well though, depicting a hard-laboring no-nonsense rancher perfectly, not trying to inject any glamour into her role whatsoever, as might have been the case if certain other big name actresses had played the role. I am forever amazed by Blanchett's versatility! The girls playing the daughters were excellent
too, specially the youngest one, who had a number of intense emotional scenes.
I liked the bleak feeling presented in the film...the raw climate, the hopelessness combined with determination that the characters portrayed. The heroic rescue attempts were not without their screw-ups, making the story much more realistic than a typical Western shoot-em-up hero movie.
I also enjoyed the element of mysticism, which was pulled off without being too corny. The main villain in this film was quite possibly the creepiest, ugliest villain to grace the screen in years! Yet somehow it wasn't too trite either.
My personal beef with most Hollywood epics is that friggin' annoying sweeping soundtrack music, which practically spells out to you how you are supposed to feel, replacing the emotion that should have been created by the acting and directing. Thankfully, the soundtrack didn't overwhem this film. Just some well placed ambient music which supplemented the scenes nicely.
Definitely one of the better films I've seen lately. I rate it 8/10.
Cate Blanchett has been surviving just fine on her own, but when some
indians kill her boyfriend and kidnap her eldest daughter (she has one
other, who's quite good), she is forced to ask her strange and estranged
father (Tommy Lee Jones) for help.
Ron Howard finally made that western he's been dreaming of since he was a kiddie putting together home movies of men on horses riding into town (which you can find on The Missing DVD) - and i hope it surpasses his wildest dreams.
Its widescreen wild-west vistas make this one of the most beautiful films to come out of Hollywood in years. Cinematography is superb, to say the least.
And its suspense is perfect. I wasn't bored one minute - it is regulated by violent outbursts from the indians at unexpected intervals. As soon as we're about to wonder why we were so scared of the indians, we are reassured why.
Virtually constant camera movement and hand-held work take us into the world of The Missing, and make it really come alive. Ron Howard really knows what he's doing.
10/10. A beautiful, suspenseful, outstanding film.
Parent's Warning: its quite violent. Many graphic deaths, many more where the violence is strongly suggested. Make sure your audience is over, say, 16.
Set in the year of 1885 Maggie Gilkeson (Cate Blanchett) is a doctor who
along with her two daughters, Lilly and Dot and friend Brake Baldwin,
happily live on a ranch in New Mexico. Until, one day a ghost from
past appears who, turns out to be her estranged father, Samuel Jones
Lee Jones). But Maggie does not wish to see her father after a troubled
childhood so she sends him on his way and hopes to get on with her life
without him. However, when her eldest daughter Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood) is
kidnapped by a rebel group of ex-soldiers led by a witch doctor, Maggie
no choice but to ask her father to help track down the kidnappers and find
Full of continuous epic action 'The Missing' is a film that does not show many faults and has everything you want to see in a first rate film, from tension to suspense with loads of great drama, tremendous acting and even witchcraft.
Director Ron Howard does it yet again, creating a superb film which I think he can easily put into his best of list. The only real bad thing about this film is that it goes on a bit too long (which in all fairness couldn't really be helped) but despite that, it grips you and holds on tight both unpredictable and unforgettable with great performances from Tommy Lee Jones, who never ceases to amaze, Cate Blanchett who is as good as ever, Evan Rachel Wood Gives another super performance and I was particularly impressed with young Jenna Boyd.
* * * * * (5 stars)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't understand why so many people seem to dislike this film. It has an awful lot going for it, a superb cast, gripping story line , much accuracy, excellent direction and cinematography,superb scenery, not to mention the darker side of Native American beliefs. *****POSSIBLE SPOILER.... Tommy Lee Jones was superb as Cate Blanchets estranged father, and the fact that it was hinted that Lilli, the 'missing' daughter was concieved in less than ideal circumstances was, I think pivotal to the animosity Blanchets character felt toward her father, the fact that he was not there to protect her when she needed him. The fact that Jones was not expecting to be forgiven, but had in fact turned up when he did as the result of being bitten by a rattlesnake and as part of his 'cure', suggested by a medicine man, was that he should not eat rabbit for a year and go look after his family, shows that he had turned up for purely selfish reasons, much the same motivation as to why he left in the first place. **********The complex and compelling characters are acted superbly by a first class cast, without exception, and the deep and more sinister back ground of the brujo man gives this an element not often seen in a film of this genre. I love Westerns, though this film is much more, it is a superb study of human interaction, in a difficult and brutal era in the history of the American people. Ron Howard is to be congratulated for giving the depth to these characters that so many classic westerns dont.
Yet another movie in which I wanted to, while watching, reach into the TV and slap Evan Rachel Wood for being such a whiner. Either she's REALLY perfected this role (Thirteen being a notable example) or.....well, anyway. I felt this was a good followup to the overrated "A Beautiful Mind" and a satisfying blend of western and downright scares. Cate Blanchett gave her usual excellent performance as a single mother and hardy frontierswoman, and carried the movie along quite well at times when it was slow. Tommy Lee Jones, in a role that seems well made for him, played the laconic, repentant, and often bad-ass faux-Apache with the same charisma he brought to "The Fugitive" and "Men In Black" (not the second one, which sucked. Majorly.), and acquitted himself well to a role that wasn't very likeable to begin with. A surprising supporting cast, including Aaron Eckhart, Jenna Boyd, Jay Tavare, and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it Val Kilmer, fleshed out the less-than-complex storyline, and Eric Schweig was a very creepy villain. The movie made great use of the New Mexican scenery and used the bleak and forbidding atmosphere to really heighten the tension. Some great camera work (particularly during the first horse chase and showing the fates of those exposed to the Brujo's mystical dust stuff) and art direction push this movie above average westerns. My only complaint was the score, which was like some kind of amalgam of the scores of "Braveheart" and "Willow", both of which James Horner wrote and one of which Ron Howard directed. But you probably knew that.
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