154 – The Missing

Cate Blanchett is a tough-as-nails frontierwoman whose significant other (Aaron Eckhart) is slain and whose eldest daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) is kidnapped by a savage tribe in 19th-century New Mexico. Reluctantly, Maggie Gilkerson (Blanchett) must ask her long-estranged father Samuel (Tommy Lee Jones) to help her track down her daughter. (Samuel shows up at the family homestead early in the film, having been absent from Maggie’s life since she was a very small girl.)

So there’s your basic story. Maggie and Samuel, with the younger daughter Dot in tow, attempt to recover eldest daughter Lily. On the surface, it sounds like any other rescue movie, but there are a couple of interesting elements that set this movie apart from others.

For one thing, there’s the relationship between Maggie and Samuel. As you can imagine, Maggie’s a little bitter at having been abandoned all those years ago, but she needs her father. Samuel, by contrast, isn’t the apologizing or type – yes, a recipe for disaster.

The other intriguing element is the theme of mysticism. Maggie is a pious God-fearin’ Christian, whereas Samuel is as close to being an American Indian as a white man can get – i.e., he’s well attuned to the powers of medicine men and shamans.

For me, this movie was carried quite ably by two towering polarizing performances, by Blanchett and Jones. In fact, I think Cate Blanchett was absolutely amazing in this movie. For a woman as beautiful and glamorous as Blanchett is – and can play – her Maggie was as down-and-dirty and multilayered as that of an Oscar-worthy performance. I believe this movie would have been nearly worthless had Blanchett not been cast.

The Missing: ***

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