The Searchers is about some people searching. The Missing, which has ostensibly the same plot, is not really about the missing people at all. Its about The Searchers. In both senses.

The Missing articulates acutely how difficult it is in 2004 to make a Western. The traditional enemies are now a wronged, murdered nation. The traditional heroes are chauvinistic, violent and outside any real civilised understanding of law. The wilderness is no longer inviting, rather it is the threatening landscape of The Blair Witch Project. Where is the Western without moral certainty? Frankly the rot set in when the good guys started wearing black hats too.

So in this reconstructed Western for 2004 our lead is hard bitten rancher Cate Blanchett. Why is she so tough? Well her Daddy legged it when she was a kid leaving her emotionally scarred and self sufficient. We know this cos he conveniently rocks up at the start of the film, after living most of his life with Injuns. Because as we all know, Injuns ain’t bad folks. Except the girl stealing kind who then rock up and nick of Cate’s eldest daughter. We know these are bad injuns as, well they are stupendously ugly. This is directed by Ron Howard after all, who has never really been keen on baddies at all in his films. He rectifies this here by introducing the most one dimensionally evil portrayal of a native American for probably thirty years. Still we have good Injuns knocking around so this isn’t a racist statement. In many ways it is the most refreshing part of an otherwise rather formulaic film. The formula being out of date leaves us with some novelty. But rather than a psychologically more in tune, and thus less entertaining, version of The Searchers he could have given us a companion piece.

We are party to a couple of escape attempts by Cate’s daughter which pad out this rather bloated film. In these scenes is the alternative film, the real The Missing. The desperation of captivity, the camaraderie, the escape attempts, the loss of hope after the failed escape attempts. We’ve seen the film about people hunting, lets see a film about the missing..

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