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New York magazine ran a cover story years ago calling John Ford's " The Searchers " the most influential movie in American history. Movies like " Taxi Driver ," " Hardcore " and " Paris, Texas " consider the theme of an abducted girl and the father or husband or cab driver who tries to rescue her from sexual despoliation at the hands of people he despises. The beat goes on with Ron Howard's "The Missing," a clunky Western that tries so hard to be Politically Correct that although young women are kidnapped by Indians to be sold into prostitution in Mexico, they are never molested by their captors.

In the tradition of Robert De Niro ("Taxi Driver"), George C. Scott ("Hardcore") and Harry Dean Stanton ("Paris, Texas"), the movie has Tommy Lee Jones as a craggy loner who turns up when needed for the rescue. But in its update of the story, "The Missing" supplies a strong woman as the heroine. This is Maggie Gilkeson ( Cate Blanchett ), as a frontier rancher who lives with two daughters and has a hired man ( Aaron Eckhart ) who provides sex, but isn't allowed to spend the night because she doesn't want to give anyone the wrong idea. She has some doctoring skills, and as the film opens, is pulling an old woman's tooth -- her last one, ho, ho.

Jones plays Maggie's father, Samuel, who abandoned the family years ago and has been living with Indians, learning their customs and sharing their firewater. He turns up desperate, but she sends him away. Then her daughter Lily ( Evan Rachel Wood ) is captured by Indians, and Maggie needs his expertise in the ways of the Indian; she asks him to join her in the search. Also coming along is her younger daughter, Dot ( Jenna Boyd ).

So OK. An old drunk, a woman and a kid are chasing a resourceful band of Indians and half-breeds, led by a psychic male witch named Chidin ( Eric Schweig ). What are their chances? Excellent, I'd say, although of course there will have to be several close calls, assorted escapes, recaptures and gunfights so prolonged that our attention drifts.

Sorry, but I couldn't believe any part of this movie. It's such a preposterous setup that I was always aware of the plot chugging away, and the logistics of the chase defy all common sense. The underlying assumption (that an old white coot and his daughter can out-Injun the Injuns) would be offensive if it did not border on the comedic, and why else, really, did they bring the 10-year-old along, except to provide a young girl who'd be handy for scenes in which she is in danger?

When you see good actors in a story like this, you suspect they know how bad it is, but work to keep their self-respect. Jones has sad eyes in the film and underplays his role to avoid its obvious opportunities for parody; Blanchett is strong and determined, and the only flaw in her performance is that it's in the wrong movie.

At 135 minutes, "The Missing" is way too long. This is basically a B Western jumped up out of its category. As a lean little oater, this story could have held down half of a double bill back when Westerns were popular, but these days audiences need a reason to see a Western. Kevin Costner gives them one in " Open Range ," but Howard, who often makes wonderful movies, has taken a day off.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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Film credits.

The Missing movie poster

The Missing (2003)

Rated R for violence

137 minutes

Cate Blanchett as Maggie

Jenna Boyd as Dot

Val Kilmer as General

Aaron Eckhart as Brake Baldwin

Evan Rachel Wood as Lily

Eric Schweig as Chidin

Tommy Lee Jones as Samuel Jones

  • Ken Kaufman

Based on the novel by

  • Thomas Eidson

Directed by

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The Missing

Audience reviews, cast & crew.

Lee Kang-sheng

Chieh Chang

Yi-Ching Lu

Screenwriter

the missing 2003 movie review

‘The Missing’ Movie Review (2003)

By Brad Brevet

the missing 2003 movie review

I had my doubts, but now I am apologetic as Ron Howard manages to turn The Missing into just as much of a character piece as it is a western thrill-ride, but he is not alone when it comes to the credits.

The Missing tells the story of Maggie Gilkeson (Blanchett) who is living home on the range in New Mexico. The year is 1885 and her and her two girls, Dot (Jenna Boyd) and Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood), make due as Maggie is a local doctor.

One day, Maggie’s father, Jones, who abandoned her when she was a child and spent 20 years with the Apache people, returns to reunite with his family but is turned away by his daughter.

Only a day after she shuns her father away Lilly is kidnapped by an evil witchdoctor with mystical powers and her father is the only one she can rely on to help her track down the thieves.

With a stellar cast to work with Howard gives spotlight to the characters, letting their relationships and emotions guide the story just as he did in Ransom. The audience gets to watch as the hardened shell that is Maggie is broken down and she becomes closer and closer to her father.

The performances turned in by the young Jenna Boyd ( Dickie Roberts: Child Star ) and Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen) are outstanding. The feelings they are able to let out on the screen are just as powerful as the hardened shell of a woman that Cate Blanchett portrays.

Not only in their words and dialogue are you able to see what each character is feeling, but it is something in their eyes that make you care for each one of them and you are able to feel what each one is going through.

Another aspect that gives the movie credibility is the use of the Native American language of Chiricahua. All characters in any relation to the Apache tribe were required to learn the language, including Tommy Lee Jones, and it is remarkable the power it has as it is not only used to give the film authenticity but a sense of humor.

The interaction between the members of the cast is so natural it is spooky as each one seemed to take on the role with such dedication that they actually became the characters they were portraying.

While The Missing is slow at times, as is any character driven vehicle, the result of getting to know these characters intimately is invaluable once you reach the ending of the film.

Cate Blanchett is being toted as an Oscar potential for her role in this flick but after the performances turned in by Jenna Boyd and Evan Rachel Wood these are two young girls that we must keep on our radars.

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the missing 2003 movie review

The Missing (2003)

John Ford’s 1956 The Searchers imperfectly but provocatively illuminated a previously unexplored dark side in classic Western iconography, offering a challenging picture of a traditional John Wayne hero who was also bitterly anti-Indian and brutal enough to spend the film pursuing the honor killing of his niece, now “the leavin’s of a Comanche buck.”

Artistic/Entertainment Value

Moral/spiritual value, age appropriateness, mpaa rating, caveat spectator.

Ron Howard’s 2003 film The Missing , despite strong thematic similarities to Ford’s film, has nothing challenging or illuminating to offer, no questions to raise about contemporary assumptions, no new insights for modern audiences. In fact, where Ford’s film challenged assumptions and attitudes still current in 1956, Howard’s film largely embraces, if not panders to, politically correct current attitudes regarding gender roles, racism, and a number of other subjects.

In place of Ford’s iconic but Indian-hating cowboy hero, Howard gives us two white protagonists who are each, in their own ways, the antitheses of the John Wayne character.

One is an Indian-wannabe tracker named Samuel (Tommmy Lee Jones) who left his white family to live with the Indians, and now dresses like an Apache and practices native spirituality. The other is an independent white medicine woman named Maggie (Cate Blanchett) who’s liberated enough to share her bed with a cowboy beau without allowing him to marry her (this despite repeatedly being declared to be a “good Christian” woman), tough enough to ride shotgun with the tracker all the way to the Mexican border in order to recover her kidnapped daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), and white/Christian enough (read: “prejudiced”) to say things like “You never know what diseases these Indians have.”

Along for the ride are the kidnapped girl’s spunky younger sister Dot (Jenna Boyd) and some helpful Native American allies. Against them are the bad guys, consisting of Indian and white Army deserters, one of whom is a nasty brujo or shaman / witch.

Notice that the bad Indians are tainted with European-ness by being cast as Army collaborator-deserters, while the good Indians are free of European entanglements. Notice, too, that the comparatively enlightened white man is all Dances With Wolves, while the comparatively benighted woman is a hypocritical, ignorant Christian — though she’s also a gun-totin’ frontier mama capable of riding and fighting alongside Samuel, not to mention a single woman with a career — and she’s in charge of her love life, too.

Then there’s the movie’s spiritual overtones, which invoke both Christianity and Native American spirituality and voodoo-like magic. As soon as Samuel realizes that there’s a brujo among their enemies, he wants Maggie and Dot to wear protective talismans. Despite his warnings about the paranormal things he’s witnessed such witches accomplish, Maggie refuses, being a good Christian woman, though she does allow Dot to wear one.

As it happens, Maggie’s the one who seems to get hit by the brujo when she leaves behind a hairbrush and he gets ahold of a hank of her hair. As she lies frail and feverish, Samuel desperately musters what little protective mojo he can to try to defend her, at the same time syncretistically urging Dot to read from the Bible. Oddly, the passage Dot chooses is the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 (even though earlier, when reading the Bible for the benefit of a sick woman, she read from a more obviously appropriate source, Psalm 23).

In the end, Maggie recovers, and the movie doesn’t officially declare whether it was Samuel’s Indian mojo, Dot’s reading, or the combination of the two that did the trick — or even whether it was really the brujo ’s magic, and not bad drink, that made Maggie ill in the first place. Still, it’s the brujo who comes off as having really powerful spiritual connections; we have Samuel’s eyewitness accounts of brujo magic, and nothing that says Christians have any power or pull in spiritual matters.

Even on a storytelling level, despite decent writing, solid acting, and fine production values, this is no Open Range . It’s bleak and joyless. The heroes suffer so many setbacks and losses, and their predicament is so grim and hopeless for so long, that the film could only be redeemed by some kind of challenging moral implication (cf.  The Searchers ) or by an especially redemptive, uplifting third act.

But there’s nothing like either of those two things here. The Missing is neither cathartic nor escapist, neither persuasive nor inspiring. It’s just a gritty, exhausting tale of perseverance and survival that takes too long to get to the end without enough of a reason to get there.

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The Missing

Where to watch

The missing.

Directed by Ron Howard

How far would you go, how much would you sacrifice to get back what you have lost?

When rancher and single mother of two Maggie Gilkeson sees her teenage daughter, Lily, kidnapped by Apache rebels, she reluctantly accepts the help of her estranged father, Samuel, in tracking down the kidnappers. Along the way, the two must learn to reconcile the past and work together if they are going to have any hope of getting Lily back before she is taken over the border and forced to become a prostitute.

Cate Blanchett Tommy Lee Jones Evan Rachel Wood Jenna Boyd Aaron Eckhart Val Kilmer Eric Schweig Steve Reevis Jay Tavare Simon Baker Ray McKinnon Max Perlich Elisabeth Moss Clint Howard Rance Howard Deborah Martinez Scarlett McAlister Arron Shiver David Midthunder Sergio Calderón Ramon Frank Deryle J. Lujan Rod Rondeaux Angelina Torres

Director Director

Producers producers.

Brian Grazer Ron Howard Kathleen McGill Aldric La'Auli Porter Louisa Velis Daniel Ostroff Thomas Eidson Sue Berger

Writer Writer

Ken Kaufman

Original Writer Original Writer

Thomas Eidson

Casting Casting

Janet Hirshenson Jane Jenkins Jo Edna Boldin

Editors Editors

Daniel P. Hanley Mike Hill

Cinematography Cinematography

Salvatore Totino

Executive Producers Exec. Producers

Todd Hallowell Steve Crystal

Stunts Stunts

Julie Adair Walter Scott Rio Alexander Jason Rodriguez Tony Lee Boggs Ann Scott Robert Harman Robbie Dunn Mary Davenport Samantha Brainard

Composer Composer

James Horner

Costume Design Costume Design

Julie Weiss

Columbia Pictures Imagine Entertainment Revolution Studios Daniel Ostroff Productions

Primary Language

Spoken languages.

English Spanish

Releases by Date

26 nov 2003, 12 feb 2004, 27 feb 2004, 12 mar 2004, 17 mar 2004, 30 apr 2004, 31 dec 2014, 01 jun 2022, 21 sep 2004, 02 mar 2009, 06 oct 2006, releases by country.

  • Theatrical 12 Columbia Tristar mj.gov.br
  • Theatrical TP
  • Physical DVD
  • Digital VOD
  • Digital Netflix
  • Theatrical 12
  • Theatrical 15

Netherlands

  • TV 16 RTL 7
  • Physical 16 DVD
  • Theatrical R

135 mins   More at IMDb TMDb Report this page

Popular reviews

krista

Review by krista

if cate blanchett thinks she can make me sit through a 2hour western for her...... then she’s right

OpticPotato

Review by OpticPotato ★★

Blanchett acts the shit out of these 2 hours+ full of nothing.

emma

Review by emma ½ 1

Noxiously racist film. Anyway I watched this because Val Kilmer is in it, so all I'm going to do is post a section from his memoir.

One way or the other, Americans have to deal with the West and its glorious, sordid, and sadistic past. Marlon [Brando] knew that the West represents both our territorial salvation and our mortal sin, our gain and our greed. We fought lawlessness to create an even more lawless law, one that excused and perpetuated genocide. Even today, this gun-obsessed nation that we love remains enmired in a dilemma centered on pistols and rifles with romantic ties to our murderous past. We love Westerns. We learn everything from Westerns and yet learn nothing from them. We continue killing ourselves in unconscionable ways.

alexa🪼🫧🪩

Review by alexa🪼🫧🪩 ★★

spoiler alert: they found her!

this film was very distasteful

waiyanaung

Review by waiyanaung ★★★½ 1

This slow burn western from Ron Howard is well worth your time. It stays in the same veins of classic westerns but able to make it's own way too. Just like most hollywood westerns it concerns with the conflict between Red Indians and early settlers, and the story has some magic in it.

Cate Blanchett plays a rancher and doctor living a quiet peaceful life with her two daughters until one day a group of deserters Apache Indians kidnapped one of her children ( Evan Rachel Wood ). At the same time her father ( Tommy Lee Jones ) who had abandoned the family and started living as an indian a long long time ago shows up and the two reunite and start a…

maneleeo

Review by maneleeo ★★½ 2

It's like "The Searchers" was directed by Ron Howard. So, everything is pretty "Hollywood" by today's standards. There is no sense of danger, things look great but are just too easy and comfortable. I don't have doubts that things will be alright and therefore there is no risk.

I do like some of Ron Howard's films. I love "A Beautiful Mind" for example (although many people roll their eyes when hearing about that film), but some of his films are just too "Hollywood". I like my westerns to be gritty I think and this one was too clean.

But the acting, was just wow. Cate Blanchett never made a bad role, I believe! I'm still getting impressed by her.

teamgal

Review by teamgal ½ 2

Ron Howard (the very definition of a hack) really thought he had a Best Picture candidate on his hands. For this makes no sense as anything other than a prestige grab. There's no way it was going to make a nickel.

Starts out as a "hey, let's tweak THE SEARCHERS" thing, but then turns into one of the most alarmingly racist pictures you've ever seen. It's vile. Evidently just a short 20 years ago, studios felt they could still get away with funding a grotesque fantasy of brutal "savages" ravaging white frontier women. Beyond the pale.

Rob Hill

Review by Rob Hill ★★★

This western fantasy is mostly awesome, but has some horrifically glaring flaws.

The cast is incredible. The story is compelling. The scenes are memorable.

But the plot *astonishingly* relies on the terrible decisions of children. Like major swaths of the movie. The stupidity required to advance the story is actively frustrating.

Still, generally watchable!

anne®

Review by anne® ★★★★

cate blanchett killing men??? that's just what i like

Jordan Beaumont Anderson

Review by Jordan Beaumont Anderson ★★★

I'm such a dumb slut for westerns that you could make a three-hour joint about a bunch of fat old ranch hands sitting around a fire, slowly filling a spittoon, and I'd be like a venomous look at the birth of the American psyche, a trillion stars or somesuch bullshit.

karen h.

Review by karen h. ★★★★ 1

tommy lee jones is a damn force of nature and we treat him like a dang pellet gun

Geoffrey Broomer

Review by Geoffrey Broomer ★★★★ 6

I put off The Missing for a long time due to mixing it up with 2003's other epic western, Cold Mountain. Frankly, this was viewed for the Wild West Summer challenge for having a strong female protagonist, and the selection was made still confusing it with Cold Mountain. So blindly expecting bloated gone with the wannabe romance, only to be greeted by this beast? A pleasant surprise.

The Missing is a Ron Howard film - with all the Brian Glazer production values and rousing spirit of adventure that the director's blockbusters promise. A variation on The Searchers, here a single mother (Cate Blanchett) reluctantly accepts help from her estranged faux-Native father (Tommy Lee Jones) to track down her abducted daughter…

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the missing 2003 movie review

A disappointment; relentlessly bleak and brutal.

The Missing Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Extreme and very graphic peril and violence, chara

Sexual references, nude dead body.

Some strong language.

Characters drink and smoke.

Parents need to know that this is an extremely violent movie, with frequent and exceptionally graphic brutal images and many injuries and deaths, including death of a child. A character commits suicide. There are sexual references and non-explicit sexual situations. The plot revolves around a plan to sell the girls…

Violence & Scariness

Extreme and very graphic peril and violence, characters killed, suicide. Intense peril.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is an extremely violent movie, with frequent and exceptionally graphic brutal images and many injuries and deaths, including death of a child. A character commits suicide. There are sexual references and non-explicit sexual situations. The plot revolves around a plan to sell the girls into prostitution. Characters drink alcohol and use some strong language. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

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the missing 2003 movie review

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  • Kids say (2)

Based on 3 parent reviews

Far better than review suggests & really no nudity or sex

The missing - long and rugged but engrossing, what's the story.

THE MISSING centers on Maggie (Cate Blanchett), an indomitable frontier woman who can yank an infected tooth, chop the firewood, handle a pouting teenager, and still find time for a romantic interlude with a handsome cowboy. She is known as a healer, and never turns anyone away, even her estranged father (Tommy Lee Jones), who deserted her family when she was a child and has been living with the Indians. She will treat him, but she will not forgive him. But then, when an Indian shaman and his henchmen (some Indian, some white) murder Maggie's lover and kidnap her daughter to sell her into prostitution, Maggie has to ask her father to help her track them so she can bring her daughter home.

Is It Any Good?

The Missing is a disappointment, relentlessly politically correct and even more relentlessly bleak and brutal. In some ways, it's is a very traditional set-up, with the quintessential movie plot -- two people who do not get along forced to take a physical and psychological journey together in pursuit of a goal. Director Ron Howard sustains the bleak and ominous atmosphere with images like a riderless horse returning home and a wolf on the dining room table. And the story has some resonance, with themes that circle back. One parent left a child and another cannot leave a child, among other themes. Another parent who loses a child cannot continue.

The Missing has strengths, including the willingness to attempt some thematic complexity, reliably solid performances by Blanchett and Jones and the outstanding Jenna Boyd. But it does not address its themes with enough depth to justify its darkness, and thus does not succeed.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about the dualities this movie emphasizes.

Discuss how the Native Americans and the settlers interact. What does this say about our shared cultural past?

Movie Details

  • In theaters : November 25, 2003
  • On DVD or streaming : February 23, 2004
  • Cast : Aaron Eckhart , Cate Blanchett , Tommy Lee Jones
  • Director : Ron Howard
  • Inclusion Information : Female actors
  • Studio : Columbia Tristar
  • Genre : Drama
  • Run time : 100 minutes
  • MPAA rating : R
  • MPAA explanation : violence
  • Last updated : May 1, 2022

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Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Missing (2003) Film Review

The missing.

Reviewed by: David Haviland

The Missing

In one of the lighter moments of this period thriller, Tommy Lee Jones's character, a white man who has "gone native", is asked what his given Red Indian name means. Reluctantly, he explains that a rough translation would be Shit For Luck, as the Apache people value family very highly and he is a man with none.

Jones's character, also called Jones, is "the missing" of the title, as the reason he has no family is because he deserted his wife and daughter 20 years before. The film opens with his return, as he tries to rebuild a relationship with his daughter, Maggie (Cate Blanchett), who now has two daughters of her own, Lily (Evan Rachel Wood) and Dot (Jenna Boyd). Maggie refuses to see him, but when Lily is captured by Indians, she needs his help and so they set off to rescue her.

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Despite its setting in 19th century New Mexico, The Missing is more of a thriller than a Western, with director Ron Howard skilfully constructing a number of suspenseful, action-filled set-pieces. Native Americans are central to the plot, but the film has no interest in politics, or history, instead uses the setting to dramatise a contemporary story about the duties of parenthood. Maggie bitterly resents Jones for leaving them all those years ago and Lily, in turn, resents Maggie, feeling trapped by her rural upbringing.

The bleak, gritty landscapes reflect the complex morality of the characters. Jones offers no apology for abandoning his family and remarrying and expects no forgiveness. The best that can be hoped for is a new accord, as Maggie explains: "What you're doing, you're doing for your own soul, 'cause what you've done, you can't undo."

This focus on the emotional aspects of the story generates surprisingly powerful scenes. When Maggie sets off to rescue Lily, she plans on leaving young Dot behind, but Dot witnessed the abduction of Lily and the murder of two others and begs her mother, in a heart-wrenching moment, to take her along.

The Missing is an entertaining film, but it feels overlong at 130 minutes and Maggie is so saintly and cold that it's hard to fully engage with her. The other issue is that the blend of genres doesn't work, as the action sequences seem a little over the top in what is essentially a small human drama.

Seeing Dot at yet another gunfight, after she's witnessed numerous brutal murders, as well as the kidnapping of her sister, and has almost drowned, seems a little bathetic.

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Director: Ron Howard

Writer: Ken Kaufman, based on The Last Ride by Thomas Eidson

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, Evan Rachel Wood, Jenna Boyd, Aaron Eckhart, Val Kilmer

Runtime: 130 minutes

Country: US

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BONUS WESTERN MOVIE REVIEW: The Missing (2003)

by Travis Mills | Mar 29, 2022 | 12 Westerns in 12 Months

the missing 2003 movie review

I continue to study the Western genre. I have now launched a podcast about the making of Western films. Listen here

I first saw this Ron Howard-directed Western when it hit theaters nearly twenty years ago. It felt like it was time for a reassessment (and the film expires from Amazon Prime in a couple days). The second viewing improved upon my memory of this film but it unfortunately fails to live up to its potential. Here are some of my thoughts on its strengths and weaknesses:

1. Cate Blanchett. She gives the film’s weakest performance and I credit that to her origins. A majority of actors from the UK and Australia are not a natural fit for the Western genre. There are exceptions of course but Blanchett, best suited for stiff period pieces, is out of her element here. Placed side by side with Tommy Lee Jones, one of the most well-suited Western actors, and the terrific Jenna Boyd (playing the young Dot), Blanchett’s Magdalena seems phony and forced. Ironically, the lead actress Jones would direct years later in another Western, Hilary Swank in The Homesman , would have been a better fit for this role.

2. The cinematography. It features some of the most breathtaking sequences for Western films this century. Much of this adds to the story instead of just showing off the landscape. Howard and his DP Totino make great use of a variety of locations, making us feel like the heroes have traveled far and wide to accomplish their mission. There are also times, as a filmmaker, where I wanted to tell them to turn off some lights and let it go darker, especially some bizarre shots which are strongly front-lit.

3. The bad guys. Howard fails to make the group of villains memorable. Beyond the lead witch doctor (more on him in a second), the rest are just an indistinguishable mix of white and Apache killers. I never could tell one from the other and that makes them far less effective. The spooky medicine man is definitely memorable but a little too pure evil for my taste. I think the film needed a villain counterpart with more layers to balance him out, one that he could eventually turn against when the going gets tough.

4. The mysticism. One of this Western’s strongest elements is playing with the supernatural in ways that most of the genre never has. It’s quite effective and adds great suspense to a few sequences, specifically the one involving the curse on Blanchett.

5. The length. This is probably the film’s greatest flaw. It’s just way too long! After an extended opening (it’s a half hour before the action really gets going), the movie has a strong middle that unfortunately leads to several climactic scenes, each of which could have been the movie’s ending. Howard, who is usually economical, indulges too much here. The film should have finished on Tommy Lee and his Native counterparts first attack on the bad men or at least that one could have led to the standoff in the mountains. Instead, we have a few skirmishes and things start to get tedious. The filmmakers also miss a great opportunity to put guns in the females captives’ hands. If I was rewriting this script, I would have Jones or Blanchett free the girls and tell them “You’re going to have to fight if any of us will survive”. Outnumbered already, this would have logically led to a victory for our heroes and also given an incredible dramatic moment for these women who have given so much to enact a savage revenge. Alas, the film really misuses the captives, making them incapable, sometimes stupid, and even forgetting a few on screen for a majority of the picture. Back to length, Howard should have studied the Westerns of old that hardly ever over-stayed their welcome or became repetitive like this one does.

Overall, I am happy that I watched this again and admire the effort much more. There are some very strong scenes, including a great Val Kilmer cameo and the best flash flood I’ve ever seen in a film, that hint to what this film could have been. It remains one of the many promising but disappointing Westerns of the 21st century.

Watched on Amazon Prime.

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Scott Schirmer's Movie Reviews

The Missing (2003)

the missing 2003 movie review

Ron Howard directs Cate Blanchett and Tommy Lee Jones in The Missing , an estranged father/daughter bonding flick by way of The Searchers . The story is set in motion after Blanchett’s eldest daughter is kidnapped by an evil Apache mystic who is collecting young women to sell at the Mexican border. Blanchett and Jones are reliably good, and Jenna Boyd is superb as the youngest of Blanchett’s daughters, but the movie gets more predictable and less interesting as it goes. With Evan Rachel Wood, Val Kilmer, and Aaron Eckhart.

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The Missing (2003)

The missing.

The Missing Columbia Pictures Release Date: November 26, 2003 MPAA rating: 'R' for violence Running Time: 130 minutes From Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, the Oscar-winning director-producer team of A Beautiful Mind comes The Missing, an action-filled suspense thriller and a powerful drama of love, forgiveness and redemption starring Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett. Set in the starkly beautiful but isolated and lawless wilderness of the American Southwest in 1885, The Missing tells the story of Maggie Gilkeson (Blanchett) and her estranged father Jones (Tommy Lee Jones) and how they are reunited by a terrifying crisis. Maggie is a hard-working young woman devoted to raising her two young daughters, the teenage Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood) and the younger Dot (Jenna Boyd). To support herself, Maggie works the land and provides services as a healer. One day, Maggie's father, Jones, who abandoned her when she was a child and spent 20 years with the Apache people, returns to reunite with his family but is rebuffed by his daughter. It is only after Lilly is abducted by Pesh-Chidin (Eric Schweig), a psychopathic killer with mystical powers, that Maggie turns to her father for help in getting her daughter back. The killer and his renegade crew of desperados are terrorizing the desolate territory, kidnapping teenage girls to sell into slavery in Mexico and leaving a trail of death and horror behind them. In a tense race against time, Maggie and Jones struggle to overcome their differences and establish a bond of trust as they try to reach the abductors before they cross the Mexican border and Lilly is lost to them forever.

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The Missing Review

27 Feb 2004

137 minutes

Missing, The

Coming off his worst film by far (The Grinch) and an Oscar sweep he didn't deserve (A Beautiful Mind), Ron Howard delivers his best picture to date.

Many current Westerns (Cold Mountain, anyone?) are Oscar-bid Serious Historical Pictures that would rather kiss a skunk than be labelled horse operas. The Missing - like Kevin Costner's upcoming Open Range - wins points because it's an unashamed saddle-saga that proves character depth needn't be sacrificed even in a movie full of suspense, gunplay and breathtaking scenery.

Taken from Thomas Eidson's novel The Last Ride, the story is a knowing variant on The Searchers, overlaid with the gutsiness and complex sense of racial-sexual-familial divides found in Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove novels.

With The Missing and Open Range, Hollywood has at last found worthy big-screen cowboy roles for the stars of TV's Lonesome Dove - Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall - both of whom are still more than up to the demands of the trail, and all the better for being set beside leading ladies who give voice to the too-often-overlooked Women Of The West.

In the long first act, Blanchett's Maggie is a hard-bitten take on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman - a rancher with two daughters by different fathers, a top hand (Eckhart) she occasionally beds but refuses to marry, and a sideline as a 'healer' who pulls teeth and sets bones. Her long-absent father, Sam (Jones), whom she blames for her mother's death and her own hard life, rides into view, taking the advice of a medicine man who prescribes family reconciliation (along with not eating rabbit and saying his prayers) as a cure for snakebite.

The reunion doesn't go well, but a raiding party strikes: Maggie finds corpses hanging over an Ulzana's Raid-style torture fire while her younger daughter, Dot (Boyd, of Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star), talks of the abduction of big sister Lilly (Wood, of Thirteen). Both the civil authorities (sheriff Clint Howard) and the cavalry (lieutenant Val Kilmer, presiding over looting and abuse of captured Indians) prove useless.

In fact, they have contributed to the trouble by hanging an honourable Apache chief, leaving a power vacuum filled by one of the nastiest villains in recent screen memory: Apache 'brujo' Chidin (Schweig). Thus, the daughter must swallow her pride and ask the father to lend his tracking skills to the pursuit-and-rescue mission, which leads to a trek from snowy woods to rocky deserts, then up into the mountains for a terrific siege finale that takes place after the apparent climax.

In a typical 2004-Hollywood set of character arcs, it's all about a sundered family who come together during an ordeal: Maggie forgiving and learning to respect her father, Sam acknowledging that he has done a great wrong to his daughter, Lilly changing from a superficial chit to a Western heroine. Unusually for a post-Sacheen Littlefeather Western, the baddest of the baddies is a Dishonest Injun.

Freddy Krueger lookalike Eric Schweig is terrifically rotten as Chidin, filling Lilly's mouth with sand ('That's what the rest of your life will taste like') and taking the film into whole new territory by using genuine supernatural powers against his pursuers. However, all the other Indians in the film are heroic, humorous and dignified, so it dodges the racism bullet. After decades of noble suffering, it's refreshing to see a film which admits the West had at least one bad Indian.

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Movies | 30 10 2002

The Missing

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Produced by, released by, the missing (2003), directed by ron howard.

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Synopsis by Mark Deming

Characteristics, related movies.

Big Jake

The Missing

R-Rating (MPA)

Reviewed by: Todd Campbell CONTRIBUTOR

Copyright, Revolution Studios

murder in the Bible

FILM VIOLENCE —How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

fornication in the Bible

PURITY —Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

M agdalena “Maggie” Gilkenson is a healer, a rancher, and a mother of two who has her hands full taking care of her family in 1885 New Mexico, even with the help of her lover and a Mexican ranch hand. Her estranged father ( Tommy Lee Jones ) arrives after twenty years of absence and seeks her healing touch. She treats him but orders him off her ranch, given his neglect of her for so long.

While branding the new calves, her lover and the ranch hand are murdered and her daughter Lily is kidnapped. Thinking that her father is the culprit, Maggie heads to town where the sheriff notifies the proper authorities but does little else, forcing Maggie to take matters into her own hands and set off with her Apache-saavy father and her spunky daughter Dot to find Lily and hopefully rescue her. The Gilkensons follow right behind the Apache witch who is collecting women to sell as slaves to comancheros in Mexico, but as they draw nearer to saving Lily, minor mishaps occur which make things even harder to rescue Lily and the other girls from their captors.

Morality Issues

The language in the movie is somewhat mild, with a few sexual references and the use of the s-word in a few places, but in general, the language is not as strong as it would have been with most directors. Some will find the scenes of Native American shamanism/ witchcraft offensive, but the scenes are usually brief.

Some sexuality is presented such as the attempted rape of one of the captive women and the suggestion that Maggie became pregnant with Lily as a result of a rape. “She’s a Christian woman,” or so says Maggie’s lover and right hand man on the ranch, but she and the man are not married, though his marriage proposals have been rejected. Some sexuality is hinted at between the captives and their kidnappers, but most of it is either talk or attempts. In this regard, the Native Americans are portrayed as being more respectful of the women than their Caucasian counterparts who treat the women horribly.

The violence is a bit more than what one would expect from a Western. (This movie really is a Western, despite what the commercials make it appear.) A number of people are shot, a couple of knife fights occur, and two people are beaten to death with a large bone while others are cut with claws that have been dipped in rattlesnake poison. Perhaps the most disturbing image is the remnant of what happened to Maggie’s lover, shown in the beginning of the movie, when he was apparently wrapped in a cowhide bag and set over a bonfire to roast to death. One person is beaten to death by the Apache kidnappers and his body is left on the rocks. In the scenes where a person is beaten to death, the scene usually shifts so we don’t see the actual blows but merely the action of them, with a bloody bone mallet being the only evidence of the actual violence. A young mother commits suicide over the death of her baby girl. One person’s heart is supposedly cut out, but we never see the heart, only a buried pink bag that supposedly contains the heart. In one scene, a young child is endangered by rattlesnakes suspended from tree branches.

Spiritual Issues

Marriage is treated as a somewhat important concept in this movie, though the Native Americans show greater reverence to their families than do the Gilkensons. Maggie’s father left her when she was fairly young and apparently led a less than savory life among the tribes he spent time with; he returns to her to ease his soul. Even the Native Americans saw the man as worthless because he had no family, which suggests one Biblical link that a man’s greatest responsibility is to support his family, an obligation second only to loving God with his entire being. Maggie, on the other hand, refuses to marry her top ranch hand, so she lives with him instead, having sex with him only when her daughters are asleep and cannot hear them.

A person’s family is an incredibly precious gift from God, and we should be thankful that we have a family. Lily learns this lesson as early in the movie she comments that she “was born in the wrong family” and that she’s going to leave them as soon as she can. Lily’s character comes across as a spoiled teenager , except that she is still forced to do chores around the house, like field dressing deer and branding the new cattle, though she wears her Sunday best when she helps out. Lily realizes the power of family, seemingly too late to appreciate them.

Another spiritual issue that plays more in the commercials than in the movie is the concept of witchcraft . The bruja/ witch in the movie does little more than cast curses on two people and harness rattle snake venom to make his weapons more deadly; otherwise the “medicine man” concept is nothing, though the scenes with the witch are somewhat disturbing visually since he usually has rattlesnakes around him. Of the two people who were cursed, only Maggie did not suffer significantly from the fatal effects of the curse placed on her.

Maggie, being a “Christian woman,” wears a cross for most of the movie, but her obvious lack of faith in Christ is what caused her to suffer from the curse, not her lack of faith in Native American medicine. Had Maggie been a true Christian , a woman who was willing to forgive her father for abandoning her so long ago, a woman who did not sleep with a man who was not her husband, then she might not have felt any effects from the curse since God protects us all and has a purpose for everything in our lives. Still, the scene where her father, their Native American friend, and Dot are chanting/praying over her is intriguing because they combine Native American ways with passages from the Gospels.

God’s power is almighty and everlasting; who is mightier than our God? None, regardless of culture or belief system, for God is our sole/soul protection from evil and the dangers the enemy tries to inflict. To an extent, this movie reminded me somewhat of Job who lost his possessions, his family, and his health, but still he would not curse God.

Overall, I thought this movie was going to be heavy in the shamanism/medicine man material, but it proved to be a true shoot ’em up Western, very similar to “ The Searchers ” (1956) or “The Shadow Riders,” with bits of “ Unforgiven ” thrown in for good measure. I would recommend, with reservations, this movie to older fans of Westerns, especially since Hollywood rarely produces any good Westerns with little language, little sex, and the traditional cowboy violence. Do not bring children to this movie. [Remember, it is rated “R”.]

Violence: Moderate | Profanity: Mild | Sex/Nudity: Mild

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COMMENTS

  1. The Missing movie review & film summary (2003)

    New York magazine ran a cover story years ago calling John Ford's "The Searchers" the most influential movie in American history. Movies like "Taxi Driver," "Hardcore" and "Paris, Texas" consider the theme of an abducted girl and the father or husband or cab driver who tries to rescue her from sexual despoliation at the hands of people he despises. The beat goes on with Ron Howard's "The ...

  2. The Missing

    The Missing R Released Nov 26, 2003 2h 15m Western Drama Mystery & Thriller List. 58% 173 Reviews Tomatometer 51% 25,000+ Ratings Audience Score When rancher and single mother of two Maggie ...

  3. The Missing (2003)

    The Missing: Directed by Ron Howard. With Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, Evan Rachel Wood, Jenna Boyd. In 1885 New Mexico, a frontier medicine woman forms an uneasy alliance with her estranged father when her daughter is kidnapped by an Apache brujo.

  4. The Missing (2003 film)

    The Missing is a 2003 American Western film directed by Ron Howard and starring Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett.It is based on Thomas Eidson's 1996 novel The Last Ride.The film is set in 1885 New Mexico Territory and is notable for the authentic use of the Apache language by various actors, some of whom spent long hours studying it. The film was produced by Revolution Studios, Imagine ...

  5. The Missing

    Full Review | Aug 1, 2014. A disappointment; relentlessly bleak and brutal. Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Dec 28, 2010. "The Missing" is overly drawn out but benefits much from Jones's and ...

  6. The Missing (2003)

    User Reviews. Ron Howard directs Cate Blanchett, Tommy Lee Jones, Evan Rachel Wood, and Val Kilmer in "The Missing," a 2003 western. Cate Blanchett plays Maggie Gilkeson, a medical woman in 1885 New Mexico, where she lives with her daughters and a ranch hand Brake (Aaron Eckhart), who is also her lover. One day, her father Samuel (Tommy Lee ...

  7. The Missing

    The Missing 2003 1h 22m Drama List. Reviews 58% 250+ Ratings Audience Score In parallel stories, a woman searches for her grandson and a teen searches for his grandfather. ...

  8. Review of The Missing

    A melodramatic and cliched tale of loss, redemption, and retribution. Ron Howard's latest film marks his first attempt at the Western. Granted, two of his earlier films - Far and Away and Willow ...

  9. The Missing

    darkbloodshed13. Dec 31, 2019. The Missing is a film directed by Ron Howard and is about Magdalena Gilkeson, played by Cate Blanchett, teaming up with her father, Played by Tommy Lee Jones, to go after a group of Indians who abducted Magdalena's daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood. If I could use one word to describe this film it would be dull.

  10. 'The Missing' Movie Review (2003)

    The Missing tells the story of Maggie Gilkeson (Blanchett) who is living home on the range in New Mexico. The year is 1885 and her and her two girls, Dot (Jenna Boyd) and Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood ...

  11. The Missing (2003)

    The Missing (2003) D+ SDG John Ford's 1956 The Searchers imperfectly but provocatively illuminated a previously unexplored dark side in classic Western iconography, offering a challenging picture of a traditional John Wayne hero who was also bitterly anti-Indian and brutal enough to spend the film pursuing the honor killing of his niece, now "the leavin's of a Comanche buck."

  12. ‎The Missing (2003) directed by Ron Howard • Reviews, film

    Recent reviews. When rancher and single mother of two Maggie Gilkeson sees her teenage daughter, Lily, kidnapped by Apache rebels, she reluctantly accepts the help of her estranged father, Samuel, in tracking down the kidnappers. Along the way, the two must learn to reconcile the past and work together if they are going to have any hope of ...

  13. The Missing Movie Review

    Parents say ( 3 ): Kids say ( 2 ): The Missing is a disappointment, relentlessly politically correct and even more relentlessly bleak and brutal. In some ways, it's is a very traditional set-up, with the quintessential movie plot -- two people who do not get along forced to take a physical and psychological journey together in pursuit of a goal.

  14. The Missing (2003) Movie Review from Eye for Film

    Despite its setting in 19th century New Mexico, The Missing is more of a thriller than a Western, with director Ron Howard skilfully constructing a number of suspenseful, action-filled set-pieces. Native Americans are central to the plot, but the film has no interest in politics, or history, instead uses the setting to dramatise a contemporary ...

  15. BONUS WESTERN MOVIE REVIEW: The Missing (2003)

    5. The length. This is probably the film's greatest flaw. It's just way too long! After an extended opening (it's a half hour before the action really gets going), the movie has a strong middle that unfortunately leads to several climactic scenes, each of which could have been the movie's ending. Howard, who is usually economical ...

  16. The Missing (2003)

    The Missing (2003) [6] ... and Jenna Boyd is superb as the youngest of Blanchett's daughters, but the movie gets more predictable and less interesting as it goes. With Evan Rachel Wood, Val Kilmer, and Aaron Eckhart. ... Most Recent Reviews. Possession (1981) Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) Public Enemies (2009) Murina (2021)

  17. The Missing (2003)

    Summary. The Missing Columbia Pictures Release Date: November 26, 2003 MPAA rating: 'R' for violence Running Time: 130 minutes From Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, the Oscar-winning director-producer ...

  18. The Missing Review

    The Missing - like Kevin Costner's upcoming Open Range - wins points because it's an unashamed saddle-saga that proves character depth needn't be sacrificed even in a movie full of suspense ...

  19. The Missing (2003)

    Synopsis by Mark Deming. Director Ron Howard turns to the Western genre in this tale of a father and daughter who are brought together under difficult circumstances. Samuel Jones (Tommy Lee Jones) is a man living in New Mexico in the 1880s. He had abandoned his family years before to live and travel with a band of Apaches, but his conscience ...

  20. The Missing (2003)

    Positive —"The Missing" was a good movie, but I was expecting something more dynamic from Ron Howard. … Cate Blanchett is a wonderful actress and does a great job with the material here. … Tommy Lee Jones does a good job in his role as her estranged father, but it is nothing he has done before. I admired the movie having women playing the hero and not just victims.

  21. The Missing (2003) Movie Review

    Day 4 of 12 Days of Movie ReviewsMOVIE REVIEW #37: The Missing (2003)Directed by: Ron Howard (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)Written by: Ken KaufmanPLOT:Magg...

  22. The Missing (2003) Movie

    The Missing (2003) Movie | Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, Jenna Boyd | Full Facts and Review