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Missing, The - Special Edition  (2003)


Rating: R

Distributor: Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment

Release Date: February 24, 2004
Review posted: March 7, 2004

Spoilers: None


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




Maggie Gilkeson (Cate Blanchett) is a young woman raising her two daughters in an isolated and lawless wilderness. When her oldest daughter Lily (Evan Rachel Wood) is kidnapped by a psychopathic killer with mystical powers (Eric Schweig), Maggie is forced to re-unite with her long estranged father (Tommy Lee Jones) to rescue her.




Making perhaps the quickest theatrical-to-DVD release I can think of, The Missing is a old-fashioned western. Ken Kaufman's script is devoted to introducing the characters first and giving the audience a reason to care before going into the main plot. The main plot then is the kidnapping of Maggie's oldest daughter and the attempted rescue by Maggie and her estranged father. While this may sound like standard fare, it is not. A lot of emphasis is placed on the relationship between the daughter and the father, and actors Cate Blanchett and Tommy Lee Jones give them life. Both of them coming to terms with each other is probably the script's main conflict.


Other important conflicts happen throughout the film, which means well for the few subplots in the script. One such subplot, although it holds its own opposite Maggie's search and rescue, is the portrayal of Lily's capture. She's a hostage in a group with several other kidnapped females who are forced against their will to be sold off as prostitutes in Mexico. As Lily, Evan Rachel Wood turns in yet another impressive performance after Thirteen (after or before, I don't really know which). The performances in The Missing are realistic and above all compelling.


Director Ron Howard stages some really neat scenes here and there, and overall does a very good job bringing the script to the screen. In between the slow moments, and there are quite a few within the film's first hour, the action-filled scenes are intense and staged to perfection. The most notable of such scenes happens nearly 100 minutes into the film, though it's best not to spoil it. In general, The Missing contains some pretty good intense moments, not to mention a select number of shock moments, one of which features the demise of Maggie's boyfriend played by Aaron Eckhart. On the other hand, Howard probably should've excised at least ten minutes to bring the running time down to roughly 125 minutes, yet The Missing is nothing short of looking extraordinary. Cinematography by Salvatore Totino is quite beautiful, and he captures all the major landscapes perfectly.


Despite moving pretty slowly, I enjoyed the film's intense moments, the characters, and rescue mission. The Missing is not a perfect western, mind you, but it's not simple either. The drama works most of the time and Howard's direction is solid. If the film's pace were more tighter, I'd rate it an 8, but instead I give it a 7 due to some scenes that actually bored me. However, I'm not complaining in the overall sense.




Columbia presents The Missing in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colors are solid and bright, while detail looks sharp. Black levels and dark tones are consistent and look good. Compression artifacts don't appear, though I noticed several areas containing a speck or two, as well as spots of grain here and there. The overall presentation is bright and well-saturated in color.




Columbia presents The Missing in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. The main source of audio probably comes from James Horner's towering score. At times it's pretty quiet depending on the emotional range of a scene, but the score comes across quite nicely in this presentation. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand. Surrounds act on the sound effects, which produces a few nice moments. Since the film is mainly audio-driven, the overall surround usage is limited. Still, this is a presentable and good soundtrack presentation by Sony. Also available is a French Dolby Surround dub track.




Despite the lack of a commentary track by Ron Howard, disc 2 looks pretty stacked with video-based extras. First up are 11 deleted scenes that add a little more background to the characters and their lives. Some scenes are good, but the reason of their exclusion is obvious. Second is a 2.5-minute outtakes reel that's mostly mishaps with the animals and a few flubbed lines. It's not funny, only slightly amusing.


Next are three alternate endings, but it's somewhat hard to make out the additional scenes. I didn't find these endings any better than what's in the film, not to mention they run a bit longer. A "play all" option is available for these. What Blue Collar Productions, the DVD production company, should've done is show the cut footage in color opposite the existing footage in black & white. This worked well for the deleted scenes on the Barton Fink DVD.


The best part of the bonus material shows up in the featurettes menu. The first of the five featurettes is entitled The Last Ride: The Story of The Missing, dealing with the origin of the screenplay, it was adapted from a book. If you didn't follow the story in the film you might get a better understanding by watching this featurette.


New Frontiers: Making The Missing goes on location with the production showing all sorts of on-set happenings. Interviews with the principals and behind-the-scenes footage appears back and forth. Viewers also get to see some preparation for stunt work. Overall, this featurette gives viewers a neat look into the making of the film.


The Modern Western Score features an interview with composer James Horner (Titanic) and director Ron Howard. They discuss their work relationship and the film's score, among a few other things. It's not terribly informative, but any fan of Horner should be interested.


Casting The Missing takes a look at the major characters and the actors playing them, namely Cate Blanchett, Tommy Lee Jones, Evan Rachel Wood, Jenna Boyd, Aaron Eckhart, Eric Schweig, and Howard-favorite Clint Howard playing a Sheriff. Ron Howard offers comments on all of the actors.


Lastly, Apache Language School will give viewers insight into how the production incorporated the language as well as how the actors prepared to portray their characters.


Next is Ron Howard On..., a selection of vignettes featuring the director discussing several different topics, ranging from his love for westerns and John Wayne to the filmmaking process and conventions of westerns. On the next page viewers can choose to watch three short movies by Ron Howard when he was a teenager. They're not bad, actually. For some insight about them check out his discussion on home movies on page one. Rounding out the extras on disc 2 are photo galleries of the cast, location, and the production.


You can select to view the film with optional English and French subtitles. The 137-minute feature is organized into twenty-eight chapters. The paper insert lists only title recommendations, no chapter selections.




The Missing moves pretty slow, but the intense moments and drama sustained my interest, not to mention the acting is very good. Sony's video/audio is pretty good, and the extras are mostly all informative. This is a pretty nice DVD package overall. A recommended rental.




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