It was only a matter of time before all-American director Ron Howard turned his hand to crafting a western, but with The Missing he's also produced a "rich, tense and exciting" kidnap thriller. Although it didn't spark a gold rush at the box office, the film performed well and won plaudits for Cate Blanchett - who has fast become Hollywood's go-to tough gal.
Headed Back West
Disappointingly there's no director's commentary here, but Ron Howard talks extensively and affectionately about the filmmaking process and his love of westerns in a selection of five interviews. He also makes a special point of his desire to paint a more complex portrait of Native Americans, and credits late director John Ford (The Searchers) as a key influence on his vision for The Missing.
Howard confesses that, as a boy, he fell for all the old western clichés, and offers proof of that in three film shorts made during his high school years. True to form, little brother Clint Howard stars in every single one, playing a gunslinger, a pilgrim, and a saloon-fly cardsharp. The grandiosely titled Cards, Cads, Guns, Gore And Death is perhaps the most violent of all Howard's films, but it's no wonder when he reveals that Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch was its inspiration.
There's a long version and an even longer version of an alternative ending. The first exploits thriller conventions to draw out suspense in the final showdown, while the other gives Evan Rachel Wood's character a shot at redemption for prior acts of prissiness. Along with five deleted scenes, they offer a more complex picture of the dysfunctional dynamics between Cate Blanchett's character, her daughter (Wood), and father (Tommy Lee Jones).
Apparently Cate also had a difficult relationship with her horse, as evidenced by the outtakes reel - an unexpected bit of slapstick to counterbalance the film's earnest tone. The photo galleries are also worth a mention for an unusually wide-ranging selection of stills, including location snaps of Ron Howard in mid-gesticulation, and producer Brian Grazer trying not to look uncomfortable next to Val Kilmer. If you loved The Missing, you won't want to miss out on this DVD.