The Missing

November 26th, 2003


The Missing

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Still of Cate Blanchett in The MissingStill of Tommy Lee Jones in The MissingJenna Boyd and Cayden Boyd at event of The MissingStill of Eric Schweig in The MissingStill of Evan Rachel Wood in The MissingStill of Cate Blanchett in The Missing

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.

Release Year: 2003

Rating: 6.4/10 (18,819 voted)

Critic's Score: 55/100

Director: Ron Howard

Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, Evan Rachel Wood

In 19th-century New Mexico, a father (Tommy Lee Jones) comes back home, hoping to reconcile with his adult daughter Maggie (Cate Blanchett). Maggie's daughter is kidnapped, forcing father and estranged daughter to work together to get her back.

Writers: Thomas Eidson, Ken Kaufman

Tommy Lee Jones - Samuel Jones / Chaa-duu-ba-its-iidan
Cate Blanchett - Magdalena Gilkeson
Evan Rachel Wood - Lilly Gilkeson
Jenna Boyd - Dot Gilkeson
Aaron Eckhart - Brake Baldwin
Val Kilmer - Lt. Jim Ducharme
Sergio Calderón - Emiliano
Eric Schweig - Pesh-Chidin / El Brujo
Steve Reevis - Two Stone
Jay Tavare - Kayitah
Simon Baker - Honesco, Kayitah's son
Ray McKinnon - Russell J. Wittick
Max Perlich - Isaac Edgerly
Ramon Frank - Grummond
Deryle J. Lujan - Naazhaao / 'Hunter'

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


Official Website: Imperial [Poland] | Official site [Brazil] |

Release Date: 26 November 2003

Filming Locations: New Mexico, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $60,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $10,833,633 (USA) (30 November 2003) (2756 Screens)

Gross: $27,011,180 (USA) (2004)

Technical Specs

Runtime:  | (extended version)

Did You Know?

Tommy Lee Jones and Eric Schweig learned some Chiricahua Apache for this film. Their instructors were two of the last three remaining fluent speakers.

Anachronisms: The pack horse wears a brass-buckled English leather halter (modern type of halter) throughout the movie.

Lt. Jim Ducharme: I don't know what they were thinking.
Samuel Jones: What makes you think they were thinking?

User Review

surprising hero, substantial villain


This movie is about New Mexico, not Arizona, and therefore deals with some elements of Southwestern frontier life that either are left out of most "Westerns" or are portrayed in a completely different way.

The first element is "mixed blood" persons. Although it is never clear whether Tommie Lee Jones' character is a white man living as an Apache, or is a "mixed blood," of bi-racial parents, who tries to live as both white and Apache, it doesn't matter. What matters about is that we see that only the bad people, of both races, resent him. The good people of each race -- eventually -- accept him for who he is.

The second element is the general representation of English settlers. Whenever an English person is shown in a Western movie it is either as a silly dude or an arrogant gunslinger. But most English were, like Mr. John Tunstall the rancher, from Canada, and were accustomed to the roughness of frontier life. So, here, Cate Blanchett first appears on-screen in an outhouse holding a wad of catalog paper.

The third element is the matter of social hypocrisy. Oscar Wilde (who once visited the American West) said, "Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue." Thus, Cate Blanchett insists her occasional bed-mate never sleep with her when visitors are present on the homestead. Rather, he should keep up appearances, and sleep in his usual bed, in the bunk house. In other frontier movies unmarried cohabitation is either flaunted or causes great anxiety and guilt for the participants. But here, the characters of Cate Blanchett and Aaron Eckhart realistically consider their behavior to be decent and civilized.

The fourth difference has to do with the U.S. Army of the day (the 1880s). Val Kilmer is perfect as a well-intentioned officer who is unable or unwillling to take charge of them. To him, the mission must be defined by headquarters, not by the obvious facts. Thus stripped of initiative, he becomes more of a hindrance to peace in New Mexico Territory than a help. Some viewers may find themselves wishing, "At least he could be evil!" but it is not to be. Kilmer's character embodies that great grayness of real life that Western movies try to clarify as black and white.

Five: Sexual slavery. Yup, folks, girls are being kidnapped and sold into slavery elsewhere, for sexual purposes. This was not unusual in New Mexico. This movie makes it horribly clear that for sexual purposes a stupid girl is as good as a smart one, an ugly one as good as a pretty one, an unpleasant one as good as a pleasant one. Nope, these girls are kidnapped for only one quality, which as girls they all have equally.

The sixth element which distinguishes this from other Westerns is the relationship of death and heroism. The heroism here is not the usual kind in Westerns because it requires the hero to die. Otherwise, even if he was successful in his mission, he would've been simply more powerful than the villain, or luckier, and neither of those are moral qualities. The only other stories where this is typical behavior is in Nordic stories -- the only Viking heroes are dead, and they are heroes because they willingly died in order to achieve their goals. The Norse heaven, Valhalla, is filled with men who died trying.

The last difference is the substance of the villain. The bad guy here is a "brujo," an Apache witch-man. But he is not the usual "renegade medicine man" or fiercely-proud-but-understandably-misguided warrior. Nope, he captains supernatural forces that most viewers normally associate with wolfmen, vampires and so on. He really is evil, and his skills are greater than Cate Blanchett's (she's a Christian healer). He is brilliantly portrayed by Eric Schweig, whom most viewers probably have seen only as the young Mohican in 1992's "The Last of the Mohicans." Schweig is one of those actors who are usually assigned Indian roles because of their faces -- and probably become dispirited after a few years, when they realize that no one can or will write a role for them that is anything more than the usual. There are only a handful of actors, of any race, who could've done justice to this this "brujo" role. Schweig is so good here that the movie would've been a "tour de force" for him had not Tommie Lee Jones' dramatic experience stood in his way. In real life, Schweig is a mixed-blood Canadian, and a maker of excellent masks. No one will ever let him play Hamlet, because of his race, but maybe now screenwriters will see that serious roles can actually be written for actors such as he.

In short, if you know New Mexico you'll deeply appreciate this movie, and tip your hat to director Ron Howard if you ever see him.


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