Film: Missing (1982)

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Film:

Missing

Director: Costa-Gavras
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Universal Studios

The peril facing a lone American amid Third World political turmoil is elegantly communicated in this important film from Costa-Gavras (Z), adapted by the director and Donald Stewart from Thomas Hauser’s nonfiction book. The key to its power onscreen stems from the decision not to center the action merely on the disappearance of Charles Horman (John Shea), but also on the search for him by his father Ed (Jack Lemmon)—and on Ed’s discovery of a son he never knew. The Oscar-winning script flows freely between that search and Charles’s earlier experiences in…

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The peril facing a lone American amid Third World political turmoil is elegantly communicated in this important film from Costa-Gavras (Z), adapted by the director and Donald Stewart from Thomas Hauser’s nonfiction book. The key to its power onscreen stems from the decision not to center the action merely on the disappearance of Charles Horman (John Shea), but also on the search for him by his father Ed (Jack Lemmon)—and on Ed’s discovery of a son he never knew. The Oscar-winning script flows freely between that search and Charles’s earlier experiences in the unnamed country (in the true account, Chile). Providing a link between those two stories is Charles’s wife Beth (Sissy Spacek), who follows her father-in-law around a country in chaos, teeming with reckless authority and disinterested American diplomats (epitomized by ace character actor David Clennon). The film, which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and won the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize, is certainly manipulative, but it works because of its finely detailed human elements. Usually emotionally extroverted, Lemmon gives one of his finest performances playing against that type—here, he’s a controlled, intellectual man who learns more about his son, and his country, than he ever dreamed he would. —Doug Thomas

Related Works

Book:Missing: The Execution of Charles Horman

Missing: The Execution of Charles Horman

Thomas Hauser

Missing is a true story. In retelling it, writer Thomas Hauser did not need to novelize it. Using the facts alone, the book unfolds with the breathtaking suspense and intrigue of a fully imagined political thriller. Missing explores the fate of a young American journalist named Charles Horman who, living in Chile in 1973 just before the overthrow of the country’s Marxist president Salvatore Allende, discovered evidence of the United States’ involvement in an impending right-wing coup to overthrow Allende. The story takes on a new significance now, as the now-aged general who overthrew the Allende regime, Augusto Pinochet, is facing punishment for his actions. What makes the story of Missing so frightening and horrifying is that Horman was arrested by Chilean soldiers and never again seen alive by his family. American operatives, it seems, had a hand in his brutal murder.

Charles Horman was an American, a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker who had traveled to Chile in the early…[more]

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