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The Missing

The Missing on DVD

If The Missing were a human being, it would probably work for a union.

It’s extremely mediocre in just about every way, and doesn’t appear to be trying to be anything more. So, rather than just working for a union, it would probably be the head.

First, let’s talk about the impression the movie gives you based on the trailers and the box. Having seen the trailers in the theatre, I was given the impression that The Missing is some kind of supernatural thriller, featuring some great thrills and chills. The lines “…unaware of the frightening events that lurk in the distance” and “…lying in wait is horror so unspeakable it will change them forever!” on the back of the box only perpetuate the feeling. So needless to say, it’s more than a little disappointing to discover that the movie is neither supernatural, nor thrilling.

Maggie (Cate Blanchett) is a young healer living in the plains, and raising her two daughters, Lily (Evan Rachel Wood) and Dot (Jenna Boyd). When the children head out into the woods with Brake (Aaron Eckhart), Lily is captured and taken away by…something. Just in the nick of time, Samuel Jones (Tommy Lee Jones), Maggie’s estranged father, shows up to offer assistance. Maggie has to put her hatred aside and allow the one man who can help her to do so. But lying in wait is horror so unspeakable it will change them forever.

Well, not quite.

There are a few points in the film that give you a brief chill up your spine, but they are right near the beginning and not really that chilling. The villain, whom we were hoping was really, really cool, is not nearly bad enough; he’s just really ugly and unnecessarily mean.

To be fair, The Missing is well made. The screenplay by Ken Kaufman is well written, Ron Howard’s direction is excellent, the performances (except that by Jones, who plays the same character he always does) are top notch, and the production design and cinematography are tops in their field. It’s a great looking movie that had plenty of potential, but suffers from sheer mediocrity. Fortunately, there’s enough going on to keep you from being too disinterested, and the locations are beautiful.

The climax is a by-the-numbers shoot-'em-up romp that’s hard to believe, and even harder to sit through. The fact that everyone seems to have unlimited bullets just doesn’t do it for me. Add to that the fact that they seemed really concerned about their ammo earlier in the film didn’t make it any better.

It may not be your traditional Western, but The Missing offers a good way to waste two and a bit hours. There are plenty of better movies out there, but now that you know exactly what you’re getting, you’ll probably be less disappointed than I was.

One of the few theatrical disappointments in Ron Howard’s career, The Missing still gets an excellent special edition that will appease fans of the film. The picture is presented in the increasingly popular aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (a Pan&Scan version is sold separately), and the quality looks good, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.

There’s not a lot of color in the film, particularly during the first half, but detail is still pretty good, and there’s very little grain or dust. Fleshtones are well defined, and when there is color, it’s very sharp.

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is also very good. The front channels do most of the work concerning dialogue and score, but sound effects (and the occasional shout and a bit of the score) are spread evenly throughout the five speakers. Rustling in the woods and other forest sounds are handled very well to the point that they make you feel like you’re a part of the movie, and not just some schmuck sitting at home watching the whole thing.

Disc one houses the feature, while there’s an entire second disc full of extras. First is about 17 minutes of deleted scenes of varying quality. All were understandably cut, since the movie is already too long, but some are good enough that we would have forgiven the filmmakers for leaving them in. There’s a short gag reel that seems out of place for such a serious movie, and it doesn’t help that it’s not the least bit entertaining. All three of the alternate endings included offer slight variations on the final cut, but it’s hard to decide which one would have worked the best.

There is over an hour’s worth of behind-the-scenes and making-of footage, spread over a series of featurettes. They feature the usual cast and crew interviews mixed with footage shot on location, but are noteworthy in that they actually tell you about the course of the production. We also get 20 minutes or so with Ron Howard himself, in which he talks about everything from home movies to editing to Westerns, and we even get three of Howard’s short films from when he was in school.

Finally, disc one has a few trailers for old and upcoming releases, including Spider-Man 2 and Hellboy, both of which look really cool.

The Missing, from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
137 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, Evan Rachel Wood, Jenna Boyd, Eric Schweig and Aaron Eckhart
Produced by Brian Grazer, Daniel Ostroff, Ron Howard
Screenplay by Ken Kaufman, Directed by Ron Howard


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