Film Review

RON HOWARD’S THE MISSING — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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The Missing is one of Ron Howard’s best, most underrated efforts. I typically love his films when he goes with R-rated material, and this one has edge, intelligence, fantastic performances from Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, and a roll-call of terrific character actors, and an extremely impressive visual atmosphere courtesy of cinematographer Salvatore Totino, a dynamic cameraman who I’ve been impressed with for years. This is a unique, revisionist Western that plays on old-school genre touchstones within the classical narrative while also allowing for a modern sensibility to creep through, in terms of the attitudes and aesthetic. There’s a directness that I admired about this film, with Howard steering clear of overt and sappy sentimentality, and allowing for the desperate, rugged qualities of life in the old West to shine through. Blanchett cut a convincing portrait of a woman pushed to her mental and physical edge, with the production going to great lengths to show how hard life would have been during that time period. Jones is fantastic as her spiritual and literal guide to revenge and redemption, and it’s yet another performance where he’s able to do so much with that weathered face and amazing voice beyond the dialogue that he was given. Howard and Totino opted for a washed out, de-saturated color palette; we might be in John Ford territory but this doesn’t look and feel like your grandfather’s Western. The Missing feels cold and forbidding and dangerous and lawless, all attributes of that life and time, but what’s so special about this film is that it never feels softened at any point. This 2003 release flew under the radar with critics and audiences and deserves a higher profile, and it more than qualifies as overdue for a Blu-ray release, especially considering how well appointed the production was on a visual scale. And as usual, James Horner’s score popped in all the right ways, adding heft and dimension to the action on screen. A terrific roll-call of supporting actors are on display, including Clint Howard, Evan Rachel Wood, Aaron Eckhart, Val Kilmer, Eric Schweig, Ray McKinnon POWER, Jenna Boyd, and Max Perlich, who is always terrific.

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