December 4, 2003

The Missing

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Face it, Opie was the apex of Ron Howard’s career. If The Missing is supposed to be evidence of his evolution from cute kid to award-winning director, Howard may as well go back and whistle with Andy Griffith.

Howard is the epitome of the commercially minded director, and this time he brings us a politically correct, female-empowering western/thriller/dramatic adventure with Christian values. Good work Ron; this movie won’t offend anyone and is sure to make lots of money.

The film revolves around Maggie (Kate Blanchett), a frontier single mother and doctor who also happens to be an ass-kicking gun fighter (as we later find out). Life moves at a monotonous pace for the doctor and her two daughters until one day her estranged father Samuel (Tommy Lee Jones) shows up. Sam left Maggie and her mother when she was only a girl, choosing to roam the countryside and live alongside Native Americans. Maggie has forever resented her father but is forced to reconcile her hatred when her daughter Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood) is kidnapped by renegade Apaches with a nasty penchant for mutilation. To sum up, Maggie and her father set out to find Lilly, and, in a move that defies all logical reasoning and was plagiarized right out of Spielberg, Maggie brings her youngest daughter along.

To its credit, the film is gorgeously shot and seamlessly edited. The camera captures the many colors of the vast American West, whether they be the dull grays of tundra-like plains or the fading reds of mesas. But underneath its lush exterior, The Missing is just as desolate and empty as the landscape it pans over.

If it isn’t already apparent from the above description, The Missing employs nearly every genre clich