In the latest trip to Free Preview Land, our clan went to see Ron Howard’s The Missing last night. It turned out to be something that you don’t often see these days–a straightforward Western. In fact, if you were to strap the movie into your time machine and ship it back to the 1960’s, no one would think it out of place. It’s got all the right conventions and very few surprises. If you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve seen it before, you’re probably remembering John Ford’s The Searchers. Having spent some time with John Wayne on the set of The Shootist, Howard apparently couldn’t help but put the spirit of True Grit and Rooster Cogburn into this film.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. It’s not the greatest movie ever, but it’s certainly not the worst. Cate Blanchett is excellent as the mother of a girl who’s been kidnapped by renegade Indians. Tommy Lee Jones plays her runaway father with his usual tough-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold appeal. And the youngest daughter, Dot (Jenna Boyd), is played so well that when they ride off to track down her sister, it’s actually believable that she’d come along. Thankfully, you’re not left with either the “awww, isn’t that cute” or “let’s see how often a little kid can slow us down and get us into trouble” feeling (a nice trick, since that’s what happens). In fact, considering Howard’s stature in Hollywood and the talent of the actors, I wouldn’t be totally shocked if one of them gets an Oscar nomination.
In the end, it’s just one of those pretty good, standard Westerns that you’re likely to see on TNT or TBS some Saturday afternoon. And there is nothing wrong with that.