While THE MISSING is indeed an entertaining western/thriller that boasts solid performances, the film isn’t quite perfect. My only quibble with THE MISSING is that the film seems too long at 137 minutes and the pacing could have used the kind of urgency that its storyline would seem to dictate. Fans of the genre will find plot elements of THE MISSING vaguely reminiscent of the John Ford western classic THE SEARCHERS, although this film adds a mild supernatural element to the plot. Based upon the Thomas Eidson novel The Last Ride, THE MISSING is set in 1885 and tells the story of a healer named Maggie Gilkeson (Cate Blanchett), who receives an unexpected visitor to her New Mexico ranch. Initially appearing to be an Apache, the visitor actually turns out to be Maggie’s own father, Samuel Jones (Tommy Lee Jones), who deserted her and her mother many years ago, when he went off to live amongst the native tribes.
As expected, Maggie has absolutely no use for her estranged father and sends him on his way almost immediately. However, shortly after Jones leaves her ranch, Maggie’s daughter Lily (Evan Rachel Wood) is taken by a group of army deserters, lead by an Apache witch named Chidin (Eric Schweig), who has been kidnapped white girls to sell into slavery in Mexico. Unable to get assistance from the local authorities or the army, Maggie is forced to turn to her father for help- after all, it makes sense that it would take an Indian to track an Indian. With her younger daughter Dot (Jenna Boyd) in tow, Maggie sets off with her father in search of Lily and the kidnappers. The cast of THE MISSING also features Aaron Eckhart, Val Kilmer, Sergio Calderón Steve Reevis, Jay Tavare, Simon Baker, Max Perlich and Clint Howard.
Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made THE MISSING available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. THE MISSING is a beautifully photographed movie and this fine transfer really shows off Salvatore Totino’s impressive cinematography. For the most part, the image appear sharp and very nicely defined, although there are occasional shots that seem just a fraction softer. The color scheme can be a little bit variable, sunlit days provide the most vibrant colors, but sequences shot in overcast winter weather have more muted looking hues. Blacks are accurately rendered, as are the whites. Contrast is generally smooth, except for several more artful shots, and the image demonstrates good shadow detail in darker scenes. The film element used for the transfer is very clean and appreciable grain is minimal. Digital compression artifacts maintain a low profile.
THE MISSING comes with a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The sound mix never exceeds the needs of the material and never calls attention to itself. Much of THE MISSING is dialogue driven, so those sequences are presented with a good ambient sense of space and within a natural sounding outdoor environment. Sequences with more action and gunplay do take better advantage of the discrete nature of the Dolby Digital format to create convincing effects. Dialogue is nicely recorded and usually sounds very natural. James Horner’s score has a vibrant musical quality and is nicely integrated into surround soundstage. The bass channel is quite solid and never seems artificially pumped-up or forced. A French 2.0 surround track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a fine array of supplements, which have been spread across both discs of this two-disc set. Disc one offers a theatrical trailer, plus the following bonus trailers: HELLBOY, SPIDER-MAN 2, 13 GOING ON 30, RESIDENT EVIL 2, SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE, BIG FISH, THE STATEMENT, PANIC ROOM, THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE and THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES. On disc two, one will find the majority of the supplements, starting with 11 deleted scenes. The deleted scenes offer a lot of interesting material, but were obviously deleted to quicken the film’s still somewhat languid pacing. Along the same lines as the deleted scenes are three alternate versions of the movie’s ending. These too are interesting, but the final ending chosen for the film works the best. Next, are several minutes worth of amusing outtakes.
The featurettes section begins with The Last Ride: The Story Of The Missing, a five-minute program that covers the story development from novel to screenplay. New Frontiers: Making The Missing runs shy of a half hour and details the film’s production from behind-the-scenes. The Modern Western Score is five minutes in length and features insights into James Horner’s contributions to the production. Casting The Missing clocks in at fifteen minutes and examines how the majority of actors were brought into the production. Apache Language School offers a five-minute look at the film’s use of the native language, which is being lost to time and assimilation. Ron Howard On... offers a series of very brief programs in which the director talks about various topics and offers a glimpse of some of his home movies. A three-part photo gallery closes out the supplements.
THE MISSING is entertaining western/thriller that genre fans are certain to enjoy, as well as fans of Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett. Columbia’s DVD looks great and sounds just fine, plus it offers up a solid supplemental section. If you are intrigued by the storyline or its fine cast, then you can’t go wrong by picking up a copy of THE MISSING for yourself.
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