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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 67:58)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Spanish, Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 5 Deleted scenes
  • 3 Featurette
  • 3 Photo gallery
  • Interviews - Ron Howard
  • Outtakes
  • 2 Alternate ending

The Missing

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 131 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Westerns were once a Hollywood staple, and kids would line up around the block on a Saturday afternoon to catch the latest Lone Ranger film, or maybe the latest effort from Audie Murphy or Roy Rogers with their stereotypical cowboys and Indians blazing trails across the lone prairies, or scalping white men who spoke with forked tongues. While westerns are still being produced in Hollywood, at least these days there is a greater attention to detail and accuracy – mostly.

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"Please, God. Let this film be a hit."

The Missing tells the story of a tough frontier woman, Maggie Gilkison (Cate Blanchett), a healer barely making a living in New Mexico in 1885. She lives in a remote cabin with her daughters Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood) and Dot (Jenna Boyd). The man in her life, Brake (Aaron Eckhart), is not the father of either daughter, and is yet to marry Maggie. Things begin to fall apart for Maggie when her estranged father, Samuel (Tommy Lee Jones), shows up unexpectedly, and it is clear that Maggie has little time or love for him. He is quickly moved on.

Shortly after, when Brake (what parent would name their child after a car part?) and the girls fail to return on time from a day trip to town, the alarm bells sound, and Maggie sets out to find them, only to discover that her eldest daughter has been kidnapped to be sold as a slave over the Mexican border. Initially suspecting her father of the kidnapping, then finding out that he is not responsible, she reluctantly accepts his offer to help track the kidnappers and get Lilly back. The cavalry, it seems, are off looking in the wrong direction. Using the skills he learned from a lifetime living with Indians, he sets off with Maggie and Dot to fetch Lilly.

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"Lady, I do not ride side-saddle, okay?"

It all sounds simple enough, but the plan to buy back Lilly goes horribly wrong almost from the first minute. Mistaken for murderers, beaten, bashed, shot at, hunted, trapped, swept away by flash floods – it’s all in a day’s work for Maggie’s father. The kidnappers are headed by one mean and evil piece of work, with a fondness for casting spells and torturing people. The chances of Maggie, Dot and Samuel getting Lilly back seem as likely as Maggie ever forgiving her father for running off and leaving her mother many years earlier.

Lovers of traditional westerns may find the pace and action a little slow, but those who appreciate story telling on several easy to follow levels will appreciate this film for what it is, pure escapism. Naturally, the cast are exceptional, the direction from Ron Howard is thoughtful, the settings are bleak and atmospheric, and the action is mostly believable. There are one or two moments when you just want to slap some sense into several characters, but most of us get that on a daily basis. Oh, watch our for appearances by Val Kilmer and Simon Baker.

  Video
Contract

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The heavy track didn't suit the field.
As with many films of the last year or two, this is essentially flawless. The aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is 16:9 enhanced, and everything about it looks fine and solid. Colours are both drab and bold, depending on the scene, the natural lighting suggests long wintry afternoons, and black levels are very good. Shadow detail is quite good which is just as well, as many of the early scenes are filmed indoors where there is no electricity, so cabins are naturally quite dark.

There are no compression artefacts, nor film artefacts. The layer change is noticeable at 67:58, but is placed between scenes so is minimally disruptive.

  Audio
Contract

The sole English audio option is a subtle and atmospheric Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (also available in Spanish). Like the video transfer, it is quite good though it is not a window rattler by any stretch. Surrounds are used mostly for ambience, but are present for much of the film, with most dialogue being centred in the front. There is noticeable separation, good fidelity, dialogue is always loud and clear (though affected by accents) and horses, a flash flood and some gunshots provide the only real audio challenge, but everything passes admirably.

  Extras
Contract

There are a few interesting special features provided, kicking off with five deleted scenes that can be played separately or in one hit, which will take around seven minutes in total. Accompanying these are some outtakes that provide a laugh or two in under three minutes.

There are two alternate endings provided, but neither is radically different to the actual ending used, and they're mostly achieved via re-editing. For fear of spoiling the film, the endings will not be discussed.

Director Ron Howard delivers his opinions on a several topics about movie making in Ron Howard On…, with an emphasis on westerns and his own career as an actor and as a director. The interviews last a total of 15 minutes. Howard makes reference to three short western films he made as a teenager on his home movie camera, and all three are included in their entirety in View Ron Howard’s Home Movies. They vary in length from two to seven minutes.

Finally, there are three extensive photo galleries that cover the cast, location and production.

  Overall  
Contract

With a good string cast and a successful, thoughtful director, it is hard to imagine a film going off the rails. The Missing manages to stay on track by and large, and barring a few moments where character actions make you question whether they actually deserve to live or not, this is a film that should please most. It is by no means a traditional western (although there are Apache baddies and some blue uniformed cowboys with guns, spurs and attitude), but it is an entertaining enough way to kill a couple of hours.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=4212
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      And I quote...
    "Ron Howard makes his first western, and succeeds – mostly!"
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Akai
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
          Wellings
    • Centre Speaker:
          Wellings
    • Surrounds:
          Wellings
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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