In the wilderness of New Mexico in 1885, Maggie (Cate Blanchett) is raising her two daughters, teenager Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood) and the younger Dot (Jenna Boyd), working the tough land as best she can and doing a bit of medical work, healing the odd local. The only man in her life is hired hand and would-be husband Brake (Aaron Eckhart), until her estranged father Jones (Tommy Lee Jones) turns up unexpectedly, after 20 years with the Apache people. Maggie wants nothing to do with him, but when the ruthless slave trading shaman Pesh-Chidin (Eric Schweig) kidnaps Lilly, Maggie reluctantly finds that her father is the only one able to help bring Lilly back, in a wild country and up against a mixed group of Indians and whites, all as vicious as each other.


Maggie Gilkeson (Cate Blanchett) is a single mother of two daughters Lily (Evan Rachel Wood) and Dot (Jenna Boyd) living in the wilds of New Mexico in 1885. When her lover (Aaron Eckhart) is hideously murdered and Lily kidnapped by a bunch of renegade Indians she has no choice but to turn to the father she despises for help. He's Samuel Jones (Tommy Lee Jones), who abandoned his family many years before to live with the Chiricahua and has now sought out his daughter for reasons of expiation. Samuel, Maggie and Dot set off to rescue Lily before she's sold into slavery on the Mexican border. The Indians, led by the murderous and mystically powerful Pesh-Chidin (Eric Schweig) are deserters, former Army scouts.

Reminiscent of John Ford's The Searchers but never reaching the heights of that great Western, The Missing, directed with surprising restraint by Ron Howard, is more a gripping action thriller than a Western. Eric Schweig, wearing a ton of prosthetic make-up, is a most effective villain. Tommy Lee Jones somehow gives weight and dignity to Samuel, a character who could have so easily seemed ludicrous. And Cate Blanchett brings a lovely grit to Maggie. The real star of the film for me though was young Jenna Boyd who plays Dot.

While the film aims for grand themes of reconciliation and tolerance it's more effective as an action thriller and it's nice to sit through a film on the edge of your seat occasionally, and that's what The Missing did for me.

Comments by David Stratton:
A western which seems to have been inspired by John Ford's The Searchers, but which is fashionably violent. Cate Blanchett gives another strong performance as a frontier woman imbued with true grit, and Tommy Lee Jones, as her long-lost father, is also impressive. But there's something missing in this rather contrived Ron Howard film.