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The Missing

Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, Eric Schweig, Steve Reeves, Ray McKinnon, Val Kilmer and Aaron Eckhart
Screenplay by Ken Kaufman
Based on the novel "The Last Ride" by Thomas Eidson
Directed by Ron Howard

IN SHORT: Miss this. [Rated R for violence. 130 minutes]

There are a lot of things we've come to expect in a Western: gun fights, wide expanses of scenery, the kidnapping of kidlets, gunfights, a cowardly and/or too brave to live sheriff which is always countered by a too brave to live loner or a bunch of cowardly misfits and so on and so forth. Director John Huston, in the last century, built landmark films around each of those concepts one at a time. Now we want it all in one package which, short of a showdown on main street, director Ron Howard manages to accomplish in just over two hours .

Oh how we wish we could say that The Missing is "compelling" viewing. It's not. It barely maintains "interesting."

New Mexico 1885. Hardworking settler Maggie Gilkeson (Cate Blanchett) raises two fine daughters, Dot (Jenna Boyd) and Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood) even as she shares her bed with the man she refuses to marry, Brake Baldwin (Aaron Eckhart). Their ranch is far outside of town and covers hundreds of acres of ranch land. As The Missing begins, Brake and the girls go off to check on the grazing cattle, a job that will take all the daylight hours of the day. They don't come home. Maggie finds the stone cold arrow ridden body of her love and the physically quite all right younger daughter, who tells mom the Apache took Lilly. The natives, we learn, are also in cahoots with a band of Renegades led by the, of course, psycho Chidin (Eric Schweig), who engineered the whole thing and intends to have a crew of eight girls to sell in Mexico.

Long before this point we have been told that a large traveling exposition, positing the Life of the Future, is coming to town thus tying up the limited law enforcement resources (Ron's brother Clint Howard in his usual supporting role, here as Sheriff Purdy). With no support from the Right Side of the Law, Maggie takes off on her own search, not willingly associating with her returned from nowhere father, Samuel Jones (Tommy Lee Jones). Jones has not returned because he feels (finally) responsible for abandoning his daughter twenty years earlier when he decided to go native and join an Apache tribe. No, Jones has returned because his tribe's medicine man told him it was time to attend to Family. There's a bit more history to Jones' tribal affiliation. That and the actual events and reasoning leading to his return are quite a bit funnier than what we've described, so we'll leave those surprises alone.

The Apaches and Renegades are heading towards Mexico, where they intend to sell their female captives into slavery Maggie and crew are in hot pursuit though Time, and Mother Nature and the US Army, are not necessarily on their side. Look for Val Kilmer in a small role as an Army General determined to go the wrong way in his search for the kidnapped girls

We tip our hat to Howard for working all the possible scenarios seamlessly into The Missing. The story itself, which begins and pretty much ends with the estrangement between father and daughter, doesn't reconcile enough for us to walk out of the theater with any sense of satisfaction with the story. But we've learned to expect that at this time of year. In between is a hunt which builds no tension and a chase which delivers too little in a night time gun battle which comes too late to spark interest.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Missing, he would have paid . . .


The Missing is a disappointment, even with the stunning untouched New Mexico scenery as background. Catch it on the small screen.

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