Is there a role Cate Blanchett cannot convincingly play? As the tent pole of Ron Howard's drawn-out period thriller The Missing, the Oscar nominee assumes the physical, spiritual, and emotional confidence of a pioneer woman who must simultaneously play caretaker, healer, and rough-rider. We don't laugh when Maggie bakes in one scene and brandishes a shotgun in the next. That's life on the frontier, and Blanchett - a proper Aussie - looks like she could hop in that saddle and ride with the best of them.

If only Howard and screenwriter Ken Kaufman could pony up a story worthy of Cate's efforts. Working from Thomas Eidson's novel, Kaufman has penned an abduction case that plays out along a surprisingly linear course. Any time he attempts to branch out in a valuable subplot - whether exploring the ineffective nature of authority in the Wild West, or staging one of many dramatic escape sequences - he does so without confidence. Missing occasionally teases us with relevant character and plot development, then rapidly turns tail and scurries back to the central pursuit story, a slender narrative that can't hold our interest for the film's elongated 147-minute run time.

Continue reading: The Missing Review