Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Missing: Worth Finding

Checking in with a review of The Missing, which I saw over a couple of nights on Starz On Demand earlier this week.   It's much in the new tradition of The Killing, Secrets and Lies,  Broadchurch, and its American remake Gracepoint - which is to say, excellent in its portrayal of the impact of the crime on the victim's family and people in the town, a place with no shortage of plausible suspects - and in some ways The Missing is even better.

The special power of The Missing in contrast to those other crime shows no doubt stems from the fact that the crime at hand is a kidnapping not a murder - or, a missing boy who we learn pretty early on survived his being taken - which makes the parents much more active in pursuit of their child and hence the kidnapper than the parents of the murder victim in the other series.  Indeed, whereas the police are the central characters in the other series, the father - Tony Hughes - takes that role in The Missing, and is given a riveting performance by James Nesbitt.   Tony is most assisted by Julien Baptiste - a retired French detective brought back to the case after he retired from it and the police when the initial investigation in 2006 turned up nothing, and now believes there's a chance of finding the missing boy, Ollie.  Julien is a class act and a memorable detective - wonderfully played by Tchéky Karyo - who more than anyone other than Tony (including Tony's wife Emily, well played by Francis O'Connor last seen as Mr. Selfridge's wife) believes Ollie may be still alive and can be found. But even he comes to believe that Ollie was killed, which leaves Tony alone in his belief, pursuing his son in the face of all reason, except he turns out to be right.

The press are portrayed as villains in just about all of the other series - not the killers or kidnappers, but getting in the way of the police at every turn - and in The Missing, the free lance reporter, looking for a lift in his career, is almost as despicable as the kidnapper.   But he's fortunately as vulnerable to blackmail as the people he's been threatening and manipulating for information, and near the end provides some crucial clues.

I guessed who the kidnapper was - a combination of being around and not being brought in for any questioning always raises my suspicions - but the ultimate question is not who was responsible for Ollie's kidnapping, but will Tony, now totally alone again in his pursuit of his son, ever find him. The ending is ambiguous, but, I think, hopeful.  If I'm interpreting what's on the screen correctly, Tony has tracked Ollie down to the Eastern European place where he now lives.   We know that the boy is Ollie, because he has drawn the same picture that Ollie drew before he was kidnapped.   When Tony shows the boy, now almost a teenager, the picture, the boy doesn't respond.   But I think the most likely explanation is that Ollie needs some time to process this.   Or, even if this boy is not Ollie, someone drew the picture in the snow, so Tony can't be too far off.  Why he and we are deprived of seeing him reunited with his boy is a good question.  Probably the creators of the show thought an outright happy ending would be too easy or trite.

But in any case, even without an unambiguously happy ending, The Missing concludes its first season on a more positive note than the other series, and that's a plus in my book.  It's coming back for a second season - with a new case - and I'll definitely be watching.

different kinds of crimes

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