In 19th-century New Mexico, a father (Tommy Lee Jones) comes back home, hoping to reconcile with his adult daughter Maggie (Cate Blanchett). Maggie's daughter is kidnapped, forcing father and estranged daughter to work together to get her back.Written by
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.
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