Reviews for Missing explore multiple aspects of the film. The reviewers either enjoyed the film or strongly disliked it for a number of reasons. Issues of casting and cinematography were often areas of contention among reviewers who judged the film strictly on the performances of the actors and props or depictions of certain scenes. The more substantive reviews critiqued the political message that was apparent in Missing. Many praised the director Costa-Gavras for bringing to the attention of the American public a dirty little secret concerning its government’s role in Latin American countries, in particular Chile. Those who viewed this film positively commended the efforts of the director to tackle such a controversial topic and to do it truthfully and poignantly, while others bashed the film for claiming to do just that. The film’s affirmation at the beginning that the events being depicted are indeed based on a true story caused quite a stir among the American State Department officials and movie critics. The overall sentiment concerning Missing is mixed, as with any film. However, most people did not dismiss the film as being just another movie and allowed the disturbing images and messages to reach them.
Ansen, David. “A Partisan Director.” Newsweek 22 February 1982: 69.
This reviewer brings forth some of the main issues surrounding the film—questions of its accuracy and the idea of government complicity in the death of Charles Horman. This article also allows Costa-Gavras to state his opinions and speak about his motivations for making the film.
Blake, Richard A. “What is Truth?” America 3 April 1982: 263.
Blake approaches the film as a piece that forces the viewer to re-examine his position about politics and the world. He discusses the validity of the claims made by the director Costa-Gavras and the book written by Thomas Hauser, upon which the film is based. This reviewer seems supportive of the director’s efforts to create a film discussing Latin American politics. However, he notes that the film is lacking in some elements in that its poor presentation of characters and overemphasis of certain details detracts from the message it is attempting to convey.
Crist, Judith. Rev. of Missing. Saturday Review February (1982): 48.
A rather favorable review, Crist refers to all elements—the political message, the issue of a generation gap (between the father and his son and the son’s wife), the development of relationships—in describing the great job this film does in examining the many problems that result from one event (the disappearance of Charles Horman).
Crowdus, Gary. Rev. of Missing. Cineaste 12.1 (1982): 31.
This reviewer talks about the film favorably as both a factual portrayal of a true story aimed at informing the audience of a significant event in history and as a valuable piece of entertainment that is able to evoke an emotional response from its viewers. He focuses more on the political nature of the film and makes his opinion known by referring to the other critical reviews of the film that were being written that distinctly reflected the political biases of the reviewers.
Denby, David. Rev. of Missing. New York 22 February 1982: 67.
Denby finds the film to be simply a movie about “a sweet boy who gets picked on,” and though he acknowledges the political message of the film, he criticizes the director for not being more specific in directly naming the country he was depicting and giving names and dates. The reviewer implies that Costa-Gavras’ failure to do so indicates his own personal agenda.
Kauffmann, Stanley. “What’s Missing is Costa-Gavras.” New Republic 10 March 1982: 24-25.
Kauffmann severely criticizes the work of Costa-Gavras, calling his efforts irresponsible and inaccurate. He finds the accusations implicitly made to be ludicrous and lacking in any foundation. He also calls attention to Costa-Gavras’ inability to provide proof for the events depicted as a sign of the worthiness of this film.
Kopkind, Andrew. “‘Missing’: Cultural Battlefield.” Nation 17 April 1982: 466-69.
Kopkind presents a rather neutral review. Rather than impart his own opinion of the film, he instead discusses the film within the context of other reviews and reviewers. He examines the abundance of negative commentary of his fellow reviewers, as they question the motive and work of Costa-Gavras. He highlights the discontent of the many writers who call the film a terribly misleading and deceptive representation of the events in Chile, which in turn opens up the broader issues raised by the enormous uproar the opening of the film had caused.
Lewis, Flora. “New Film by Costa-Gavras Examines the Chilean Coup.” New York Times 7 February 1982: 2, 26.
Offering an incredibly comprehensive outline of the events leading up to the military coup of 1973, the days that followed, and the role of a young man named Charles Horman, Lewis does a fine job in presenting a history lesson. This review is particularly well known, since the author made a name for herself coming to the defense of the United States government. She cites evidence to support their denials of collusion in the events of 1973 and refers to an interview with the director Costa-Gavras as a means to illustrate the fictitious dramatization of a film that presents itself under the guise of being “based on a true story.”
Sarris, Andrew. Rev. of Missing. Village Voice 23 February 1982: 45.
Sarris criticizes the director for what he considers a terrible portrayal of the events that took place in Chile, the country that goes unnamed throughout the duration of the film, but that is undeniably the country being described. This reviewer accuses Costa-Gavras of essentially misrepresenting the truth in a film that claims to be based on a true story, by glossing over some details while overemphasizing others to generate the sympathy for Charles’ family by making the audience suspicious of the U.S. government at every opportunity possible.
Simon, John. “Chile Con Carnage.” National Review 19 March 1982: 308-9.
Simon is generally favorable towards the film and praises the work of Costa-Gavras and the two main actors Lemmon and Spacek for their fine work in their respective roles. However, he addresses the inconsistencies appearing throughout the film—problems with plot and little details, the accuracy of which he questions.
Sterritt, David. Rev. of Missing. Christian Science Monitor 25 February 1982: 14.
In a rather neutral review, Sterritt merely describes what the film is about and the controversy it has stirred up within the press, the government, and the general public. What is valuable in this review is his focus on the director, Costa-Gavras, and his motives for making the film and his thoughts on certain aspects that have received criticism. Sterritt shies away from actually giving his own opinion of the film but rather resorts to giving background information on Gavras and representing his position as a filmmaker.
von Dreele, W.H. “Costa-Gavras’s Imposture.” National Review (5 March 1982): 209-10.
Calling the film a “fraud” and bashing the film for its inaccurate and unfounded claims, this reviewer found no commendable elements. He shallowly criticizes the director, the actors, and the film as a whole for falsely representing the story of Charles Horman and the Chilean coup of 1973.
Westerbeck, Jr., Colin L. “Innocence Abroad: Costa-Gavras’s ‘Missing’.” Commonweal 9 April 1982: 211-12.
Westerbeck praises the film for providing the audience with a heartfelt story about a man’s search for his missing son. This reviewer focused less on the politics of the film and concentrated more on the drama captured and the story unfolding on the screen. He sees the film as being more about Ed Horman, the father and not so much about the disappeared Charles. Westerbeck also compliments the performances of Lemmon and Spacey, giving them credit for making the film an intriguing piece of work.
Copyright (c) 1999 by Terry Su, Undergraduate at Lehigh University.
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