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Ron Howard
Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, Evan Rachel Wood, Jenna Boyd, Aaron Eckhart, Sergio Calderón, Eric Schweig, Val Kilmer
Writing Credits:
Thomas Eidson (novel), Ken Kaufman

How far would you go, how much would you sacrifice to get back what you have lost?

The Oscar-winning team of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer (A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13) present a riveting, spine-tingling thriller destined to become a classic! Academy Award nominee Cate Blanchett (1998, Elizabeth, Best Actress in a Leading Role) is Maggie, a young plainswoman raising her daughters in the desolate wilderness of New Mexico. When daughter Lily (Evan Rachel Wood, Thirteen), is snatched by a dark-hooded phantom with shape-shifting powers, Maggie's long-estranged father, Oscar-winner Tommy Lee Jones (1993, The Fugitive, Best actor in a supporting role) appears suddenly, offering help. Though stunned by his return, Maggie knows she must swallow both hurt and pride if she is ever to see Lily again. Unaware of the frightening events that lurk in the distance, father and daughter set out to track the fiend that took Lily. But lying in wait is horror so unspeakable it will change them forever!

Box Office:
$65 million.
Opening Weekend
$10.833 million on 2756 screens.
Domestic Gross
$26.900 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 137 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 2/24/2004

• The Short Films of Ron Howard
• Three Alternate Endings
• 11 Deleted Scenes
• 11 Behind the Scenes Featurettes
• Photo Galleries


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Missing: Special Edition (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 17, 2004)

Ron Howard sure started the 21st century well. In 2000, he directed , which went on to become the year’s biggest hit with a gross of $260 million. 2001’s A Beautiful Mind didn’t rake in as much money, but given its dramatic subject matter, the flick’s take of $170 million seems very strong. Oh, it also nabbed the Best Picture Oscar and snared Howard the prize as Best Director.

For his follow-up to Mind, Howard made 2003’s The Missing. However, it failed to capture much attention, either critically or financially. As I recall, it received pretty mediocre reviews, and audiences essentially ignored it, for the movie made only $26 million.

Set in New Mexico circa 1885, we meet Maggie Gilkeson (Cate Blanchett), a frontier healer who tends to the locals and raises her daughters Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood) and Dot (Jenna Boyd). We also encounter her boyfriend, rancher Brake Baldwin (Aaron Eckhart).

Early in the film, a mystery man names Samuel Jones (Tommy Lee Jones) comes to find Maggie. When the two of them meet, it seems clear some history exists, and we soon learn that Jones is Maggie’s father. She harbors very negative feelings toward her old man and wants him gone.

Maggie tends to Jones’ wounds and confronts him with all of the pain his actions inflicted in the past. He attempts to make amends but fails and soon leaves. Lilly hates her life on the farm and aspires to depart as well, though not with Jones; she dreams of a less primitive existence.

Brake takes the kids into town one day while Maggie stays back on the farm. Oddly, the trio remains away longer than expected, and only Dot’s lone horse returns. Maggie rides to investigate and finds Brake’s assistant Emiliano (Sergio Calderon) murdered and stripped naked. She also discovers that someone killed Brake and wrapped him in some form of weird ceremonial dealie. Dot soon emerges from the woods still alive, and she provides some details of what occurred. She tells that someone rode away with Lilly.

Dot claims that an Indian who wore a hood did this heinous deed, and Maggie logically suspects Jones. However, when she chats with the local law, she learns that Jones couldn’t be the killer, as he spent the prior night in jail. The police have their hands full with crowds for their fair, so they can’t help track after Lilly. Maggie plans to do so herself, and when Jones offers to help, she realizes that she needs assistance and allows him to come with them.

Along with Dot, the estranged father and daughter hit the trail. Those two get to know each other a little better, though Maggie seems quite reluctant to let down her barriers.

Soon we discover who kidnapped Lilly along with a number of others. It’s a tribe of Indians who plan to sell the females in Mexico. We eventually learn that the Apaches are US soldiers who deserted and took to their criminal ways. The 4th Cavalry tracks them but seems to lack the wherewithal to follow through fully.

This upsets Maggie, but she and Jones intend to continue their hunt, and they’ll buy back Lilly if they catch up to the Indians before they get to Mexico. The movie alternates between their work on the trail and the events that befall Lilly, who works to escape.

I went into The Missing with little knowledge of its story. I did read the blurb on the back of the package before I watched, something I came to regret. According to the DVD’s case, Lilly is “snatched by a dark-hooded phantom with shape-shifting powers. Maggie’s long-estranged father suddenly appears, offering help.” Both events occur, but the description a) presents them in the wrong order, and b) implies a much heavier emphasis on the mystical and spooky than we actually find.

I’m reluctant to discuss those elements, as I hate presenting spoilers, and were it not for the case’s blurb, I wouldn’t mention them at all. If the movie followed the path described, we’d know about the supernatural elements quite early in the film, but we don’t. In fact, the movie doesn’t engage in any of that kind of material until almost 90 minutes into the story, and even that sequence just involves a curse that may or may not really be “supernatural”. If a phantom appeared, I must have nodded off for those moments.

This leaves most of The Missing as a simple kidnapping and chase story. We watch the baddies and see our leads follow their trail. They go through some obstacles along the way, and the abducted one predictably tries to free herself. Nothing even remotely unusual occurs in these parts of the story, as Missing takes a traditional path.

And a plodding one at that. Without question, the movie borrows liberally from the noted John Ford effort The Searchers. I’ve not yet grasped the reason for that flick’s status as a classic, so I definitely don’t find much value in a movie that essentially remakes it.

The story evolves at a very slow and deliberate pace, but not one that makes a lot of sense. At 137 minutes, Missing seems way too long. There’s just not a lot that happens here, so the extended running time makes the dull tale even less stimulating.

Not only does Missing take a long way to go anywhere, but also it never arrives at an intriguing destination. The movie feels like a lot of build up with very little pay off. It does little to keep us interested along the way, as it plods along toward not much of anything.

Missing boasts a nice cast, but they get little to do. Blanchett seems doomed to often be misused or underused in her roles, and both occur here. She doesn’t get much to do most of the time, and Maggie offers little personality. As for Jones, he plays his usual rugged tough guy with the wounded soul; he mostly relies on his hangdog look and never presents any challenge.

Ultimately, The Missing feels too slow and too pointless to succeed. It plods along and fails to present an engaging or entertaining journey. Little more than a rehash of The Searchers with a couple of failed twists, the flick consistently falls flat.

The DVD Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

The Missing appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Missing doesn’t come as part of Columbia’s Superbit line, but it nonetheless presented an exceptional picture.

Sharpness looked immaculate. Even when the movie featured very wide shots, the image stayed wonderfully concise and detailed. I didn’t even notice any minor signs of softness in this tight and distinctive presentation. Jagged edges and moiré effects seemed absent, and I also failed to discern any edge enhancement. Unsurprisingly, this recent flick came without any form of print flaws, as the movie remained clean and fresh at all times.

Since Missing took place in a stark setting, I didn’t expect a lot of vibrant tones, and the movie largely followed suit. However, it displayed its colors with excellent accuracy and definition. When we found elements with great vivacity, the DVD replicated them wonderfully, as the occasional brighter hues looked quite brilliant. Blacks were dense and deep, while shadows displayed great visibility without any concerns connected to excessive opacity. From start to finish, The Missing looked absolutely top-notch.

While not quite as terrific, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Missing seemed satisfying. Most of the audio emphasized environmental elements. Since the majority of the flick took place in the outdoors, this presented plenty of opportunities for atmospherics. The mix featured a nice sense of place, as the different elements were appropriately placed and meshed together smoothly. Occasionally we encountered some more active sequences like the Indian attacks and a flood, and those kicked the track to life fairly well. The audio rarely presented a tremendously active piece, but it seemed involving and well rendered.

Sound quality always came across well. Speech was natural and crisp, with no issues connected to edginess or intelligibility. Effects seemed accurate and clear. They suffered from no problems like distortion and packed a decent punch when appropriate. The score also appeared lively and vivid, with clean highs and rich lows. Bass response was deep and tight and never seemed too loose or boomy. Ultimately, the soundtrack of The Missing worked well.

For this two-disc set, almost all the extras appear on the second platter. DVD One opens with trailers for Hellboy and Spider-Man 2. Those ads also appear in the DVD’s “Trailers” domain along with promos for The Missing and its soundtrack, Big Fish, 13 Going On 30, Resident Evil 2, The Statement, Devil’s Backbone, Panic Room, The Mothman Prophecies, and Something’s Gotta Give.

When we head to DVD Two, we open with 11 deleted scenes. These last between 25 seconds and three minutes, 45 seconds for a total of 16 minutes and 56 seconds of footage. Given the slowness of the movie itself, don’t expect anything scintillating here. Mostly we find bland character bits that add nothing to the film’s depth or story. One discusses a deceased son that Jones never knew, but that’s as interesting as this dull collection gets.

Placed separately are the film’s three alternate endings. These last seven minutes, 42 seconds, 12 minutes, 40 seconds, and 11 minutes, 21 seconds respectively. They vary a bit, as one focuses more on action while another seems more introspective, and the final one falls in between those two. None of them seem terribly intriguing, though.

As we head to outtakes we get two minutes and 32 seconds of the usual goofs. Normally I don’t care for these flubs and bloopers, but these seem a little more entertaining than most, largely because it’s good to see some humor connected to this ridiculously somber film.

Within the Featurettes domain we find five separate programs. We get “The Last Ride: The Story of The Missing” (five minutes, 36 seconds), “New Frontiers: Making The Missing” (29:06), “The Modern Western Score” (5:00), “Casting The Missing” (15:36), and “Apache Language School” (5:41). Across these five pieces, we see a mix of shots from the set, movie snippets, and interviews. We hear from director Ron Howard, producers Brian Grazer and Daniel Ostroff, writer Ken Kaufman, director of photography Salvatore Totino, stunt coordinator Walter Scott, costume designer Julie Weiss, composer James Horner, casting director Jane Jenkins, Apache translator Elbys Hugar, Apache consultant Dr. Scott Rushforth, and actors Cate Blanchett, Aaron Eckhart, Clint Howard, Tommy Lee Jones, Jenna Boyd, Evan Rachel Wood, and Eric Schweig.

Throughout all these pieces, we get a lot of information. We learn about the development of the story and script, Howard’s interest in Westerns and Grazer’s aversion to them, locations, the film’s approach to cinematography and other elements of its visual look, the work of the actors and their approaches to the roles, horseriding training, the alternate endings, the score, the actors and how they came to the film, and the use of the Apache language in the movie. Taken all together, the five featurettes combine to create one pretty good documentary that examines the creation of the film. It looks at most of the important issues and does so well, with a minimum of movie clips and a lot of good material from the set. Some of the usual happy talk appears, but not a lot, as the focus remains on strong information. These programs provide a fine examination of the shoot.

Ron Howard On... splits into six different topics. He chats about “Home Movies” (five minutes, 50 seconds), “John Wayne” (3:07), “Editing” (2:11), “The Filmmaking Process” (2:19), “His Love For Westerns” (1:49), and “Conventions of Westerns” (2:54). Howard discusses the short flicks he made as a teen, what he learned when he worked with John Wayne, the editorial and creative processes, his affection for Westerns, and his desire for authenticity. (Ron’s brother Clint also offers a few comments during “Home Movies”.) These pieces provide some nice insight into Howard’s mindset that goes beyond the specifics of The Missing itself. They didn’t fit all that neatly into the main featurettes, but they add some solid material and information here.

This section also presents three of Howard’s Home Movies. We see “The Deed of Daring Do” (two minutes, 59 seconds), “Cares, Cads, Guns, Gore and Death” (2:10), and “Old Paint” (7:51). They vary in quality, but all are fun to see. It’d be great to check out more material of this sort from other then-budding filmmakers.

Finally, the DVD presents some Photo Galleries. These split into “Cast” (49 stills), “Production” (49), and “Location” (49). It’s a pretty lackluster collection, with no shots that seem terribly interesting.

A slow-paced and largely pointless flick, The Missing goes nowhere. It lacks strong enough characters to overcome its sluggish pace, and the story remains too bland and uneventful to maintain interest. The DVD presents excellent picture with very good audio and a nice set of supplements. Fans of the movie should like this solid release, but I can’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t already know they care for it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7272 Stars Number of Votes: 22
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