MISSING is left-wing propaganda? Not by a long shot!
Erik North | San Gabriel, CA USA | 11/20/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on the true story of Charles Horman,a young American journalist who mysteriously vanished during Chile's 1973 coup and was later found dead, MISSING is an extremely well-constructed political drama--the first American film from Greek director Costa-Gavras (Z, STATE OF SIEGE).John Shea portrays Charles Horman, who, while covering Chile with a friend (Melanie Mayron), disappears from view, causing his wife (Sissy Spacek) to ask for help from Shea's staunch "my country right or wrong" father Ed (Jack Lemmon). Lemmon openly disapproves of Shea's and Spacek's political views and staunchly supports the preservation of the American way of life. Unfortunately, his rose-colored view of his country slowly but surely come apart as he and Spacek, who are initially at considerable odds, unravel bit by bit important details. As one Chilean informant tells them, Shea disappeared because "he knew too much." He knew that thousands of innocent people were being murdered by the new Chilean government, a staunch right-wing one that ousted a far more Marxist regime led by Salvador Allende.Eventually, MISSING comes to a point of increased sadness and anger, as Lemmon comes to realize that not only was Shea killed (in the national soccer stadium), but that his own government probably had a hand in doing it. The unfolding tragedy brings Lemmon and Spacek together in the end.A very poignant and highly dramatic story, with a fine score by Vangelis, MISSING also boasts typically top-of-the-line performances by Lemmon and Spacek, who have never been anything less than watchable. The script by Costa-Gavras and Donald Stewart (the latter of whom would do the adaptations of three Tom Clancy novels in the 1990s), won a richly-deserved Oscar for adapted screenplay (from Thomas Hauser's similarly-titled novel).As to the previous reviewer's attack on the film as left-wing propaganda, I honorably but strongly disagree with that notion.The facts have shown that the U.S. government supported the coup against Allende only because he believed in communism, but the regime that came to power then systematically trampled over the basic human rights of its people. And here, it very well may have contributed to the death of a young American--and the U.S. government turned its back on that man! No government anywhere in the world, anti-communist or otherwise, is worth American support if it ignores human rights. THAT is the political arguement clearly at the heart of this excellent 1982 drama."
Film is dead-on
Don Van Nostrand | 10/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My husband was born in Chile and his family moved to the US in 1975. His father was held for 3 years in one of the concentration camps. His mother made the children sleep under the beds out of fear from the soldiers. His father was one of the lucky ones to survive, not without the emotional scars to show for it. They have watched this movie and my husband and I own it. His parents have seen it only once, saying that they lived it, and can't bear to relive it. This movie is very real, and those things really happened. If you are at all interested in Chilean history, or civil rights, or if you are in the mood for an incredible movie, I highly suggest this film."
Powerful and touching movie
Don Van Nostrand | Vancouver, BC Canada | 09/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, this review is based on the VHS version. I am trying to decide on what extras are included on the DVD before purchasing it. This is one of the saddest movies I've ever seen. Its a story about disillusionment with ones government seen through the eyes of a father, Ed Hormann (Jack Lemmon) searching for his son, Charles Hormann, in the aftermath of the CIA sponsored overthrow of the Allende Government in Chile, 1972. Helping him bridge the gap between his utopian view of the United States as promoter and savior of democracy and his son's leftward leaning, Vietnam War era generation view of the world is his daughter in law, Beth Hormann, (Sissy Spacek). Throughout the ordeal of their search Jack Lemmons character has his eyes pried open to what is happening and he gains respect and admiration for the strength of his son and, especially, his daughter in law, where before existed only contempt at their choice of a "bohemian" lifestyle. This is based on a true story and the story is continuing to unfold. With immunity being stripped from General Pinochet, many of the documents and witnesses surrounding the events leading up to the roundup and execution of these "leftists" are being brought to light and used against the former dictator in both criminal and civil suits; one of which is based on the events of this movie. I highly recommend this movie as a human drama and as a historical reference. I can't imagine someone watching this movie and not doing a google search for the true story of these events. When I saw this movie during its general release I ran to the library to do research on the facts surrounding this sad chapter in US diplomacy. If you do, we all keep Charles Hormann alive in some way."
Costa-Gavras' enduring masterpiece
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 07/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Costa-Gavras shot his controversial 'State of Siege' in Chile not long before the violent US-backed Allende coup. Maybe it's that familiarity with the locale that makes Costa-Gavras' 'Missing' seem so authentic.
More than just a startling vision of day-to-day life in the aftermath of a violent coup, there's much more of a feeling for the place and what ordinary people lost in the coup. There's a real sense of chaos in its imagery - dead bodies littering the streets as people try to go about their daily business or floating by in rivers, soldiers chasing and shooting at a white horse through deserted streets or diners on a rooftop garden leaving their meals to watch a helicopter gunship shoot at unseen curfew violators. The sheer casual and irrational nature of violence ("You Americans always assume there has to be a reason") gives the film a palpable sense of terror and dread: this is a place where even an earthquake can't get people out onto the dangerous streets after curfew.
The fact that this time round Costa-Gavras had a Hollywood budget to play with helps immensely, but he also has a script based around people who aren't defined strictly by their politics - indeed, the movie is basically a search for `a political neophyte' by a gruff and unlikeable conservative (Jack Lemmon, on excellent form) and the missing man's wife (Sissy Spacek), a search that takes in embassies crowded with asylum seekers, morgues with hundreds of bodies piled almost haphazardly and the national football stadium that has been turned into a vast prison/torture chamber/place of execution. It's an outraged film but it's also one aware of its own impotence - this is a journey from hope to bitter and exhausted acceptance that there is nothing that an individual can do in the face of politically expedient mass murder.
It's easily Costa-Gavras' real enduring masterpiece, having lost none of its power more than a quarter of a century on, and its sobering to think that there was a time when movies like this weren't just mainstream releases, they were also big box-office.
After only being available on one of Universal's shoddiest DVDs - it doesn't even have a menu page! - the film is finally getting the Criterion treatment it deserves with a two-disc set including:
- Video interviews with Costa-Gavras and Joyce Horman (wife of Charles Horman). - Producing Missing, an interview documentary featuring producers Edward and Mildred Lewis, studio exec Sean Daniel, and Thomas Hauser, author of Missing, the film's source book. - Interviews from the 1982 Cannes Film Festival with Costa-Gavras, Jack Lemmon, Ed Horman (father of Charles), and Joyce Horman. Unfortunately, as these were made for a live French TV broadcast these are simultaneously translated into French. - New video essay with Peter Kornbluh, author of The Pinochet File, examining declassified documents concerning the 1973 military coup in Chile and the case of Charles Horman. - Video highlights from the 2002 Charles Horman Truth Project event honoring the twentieth anniversary of Missing, with actors Sissy Spacek, John Shea, and Melanie Mayron - Theatrical trailer - A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Michael Wood, an interview with Costa-Gavras, the U.S. State Department's official response to Missing, and an open letter from Horman family friend Terry Simon.
But buy it anyway for the film itself. It's worth it."
Still timely, gripping political thriller
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 12/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Missing is more timely than ever. As of this writing (December 2004) the notorious Chilean dictator Pinochet is now on trial for crimes against humanity in his native country where, if justice prevails, he will be dealt with harshly. In this film, set in an unnamed country but obviously Chile (the cities of Vina del Mar and Santiago are referred to explicitly), Charlie Horman and his wife Beth have come to live, circa the mid to late 70s, and it is there that Charlie goes missing.
The extreme violence of the regime is depicted well here--people are executed both on- and off-screen--but even more piercing is the intentional, cold callousness of the obviously complicitous Americans with titles--either military or political--who think nothing of mentioning a freight charge to an American who has just recently found out about the death of his son and wants the body sent back to the US.
In probably his best dramatic performance on film, Jack Lemmon portrays Ed Horman, Charlie's father, who, with Beth, initiates a search for his missing son. At first dismissive of Beth's clearly liberal politics, he quickly comes to understand the reason for her cynicism. In the face of harsh indifference, brutal lies, and extreme violence, his humanity emerges and we see a man at the end of his tether expressing what is deepest and truest in his heart.
Sissy Spacek as Beth is also very fine, as is the supporting cast--John Shea as Charlie, Charles Cioffi as the snide Major Towers, Joe Regalbuto as a friend of Charlie's who refuses to accept just how bad things are, and David Clennon as a particularly obnoxious American diplomat. But this is a tour-de-force for Jack Lemmon and he is absolutely riveting.
In this film, Costa-Gavras has gravitated from the somewhat one-dimensional--though groundbreaking--focus in Z on political corruption to political violence that directly impacts the lives of two individuals who respond humanly to it. This gives the film a profound emotional depth that we did not see in Z, and makes it supremely compelling. Though Z is a great film, this, I feel, is far superior; I count it as Costa-Gavras' best, in fact.
Based on true events, Missing is a powerful film that will stand the test of time for decades to come. One of the best films of the 80s--highly recommended."