Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Missing (2003)

A Ron Howard hit made after the kind of profitable disaster of the Grinch.

Ron Howard is a hot and cold director. To me he's mined similar territory to Spielberg but without the full emotional success. His best movies tend to be the comedies like Gung Ho or ED TV. Most of his movies work in pieces but not as a whole and he's made two of the most over rated films of the last few years in A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13.

In The Missing, the story of the abduction and rescue of several young women in the old west, Howard has fashioned one of his better films. No, the film isn't perfect, the film comes to a somewhat abrupt conclusion and there are little bumps and bings along the way, still its one of the most satisfying, if not the most serious and complex film that Howard has turned out in his 40 year career as director.

Here we are dealing with what is basically a wounded family trying to over come evil that has come into their midst and ripped away one of their own while killing other members. Its a brutal film where everyone is forced to come to terms with mistakes they have made in the past and had the repercussions end up being much more violent then they could have ever imagined.

These are not particularly nice people, including our heroes, they are small petty people who can't see beyond their own lives and prejudices and only turn things around after paying a bloody cost.

Cate Blanchett is the mother of daughters, one of which is stolen. She is a healer and is contemptuous of non-whites. She takes great stock in the word of the bible and has little use for tribal mysticism. Worst of all is her hate for her father, played by Tommy Lee Jones. He long ago walked away from her as a child and only returns to her life on the advice of a medicine man not long before all hell breaks loose. Blanchett does not want Jones around but she quickly realizes that he is her only hope of getting her child back.

The trek to get the girl back is long and ugly. Its probably close to the way things would have gone.

I like the film in that it's not all sweetness and light. Howard has a tendency to have light shine through even in the darkest moments.Its as if it says"Hey I'm a Ron Howard film how bad can it be?". This was a wounding factor to Apollo 13 and Ransom where you got the sense there would be an okay turn out. Even a Beautiful Mind suffers from it simply because there never seems to be any doubt that tragedy will be avoided, after all why make a movie based on real people if it isn't inspiring?

In The Missing people die. People get hurt. There is no certain outcome and its refreshing. At no point does the film feel like Ron Howard made it and its a glorious thing. When its over, when its done, had you said to me it was a Ron Howard film I would have been shocked. Indeed I think my enjoyment of it comes from the fact that I can't believe that Howard did it.

This is a good film and if you like westerns or good thrillers see it.

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