Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Missing Person (2008)

At a glance:
Michael Shannon gives an award-worthy, natural performance as an alcoholic private detective dealing with grief and loss while trying to solve an intriguing missing person case

Our review (with spoilers):
It is completely understandable that Michael Shannon, the star of The Missing Person, was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in Revolutionary Road. In a perfect world, he would probably get a Best Actor nomination for his work here in The Missing Person. Shannon is that rare actor who can emote solely with his body. Here, as John Rosow, he feels the pain of loss – his wife died in WTC  2001 – and his life and career exploded along with the towers. He was a vibrant, healthy police officer in New York City, but now, he is a drunken, depressed private detective on the other side of the continent. LA suits him, because no one cares, least of all him. But a new case comes his way: he is asked to find Harold (Frank Wood) a missing person, a man whose wife longs for him to come back – a man who used his own near death experience in the WTC to keep running, also to LA, but for different reasons.

Rosow is a caricature of the hard-boiled dick from the 1950s – he’s even aware of this, as are the people on whom he tries to use his typical sardonic one-liners. This is a make or break case for Rosow: if he brings Harold home, he could be set for life. But there’s so much more to the story than that – so many gray areas, and much growth for the inhabitants of this story – especially Rosow, who through the eyes of Harold and his family, comes face to face with his loss.

The Missing Person is in no hurry to tell its tale, which might frustrate some impatient viewers. The movie inches along as slowly as Rosow’s awkward gait. But Shannon’s performance is well worth every step. Shannon inhabits his character – this is not acting, it is being. He appears to be drunk. His crinkled face exudes his pain. This tiny indie film will slip by the big awards ceremonies, so Shannon won’t get his Oscar – at least not from this performance. But he probably will get one soon.

Rating: 3.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Sluggish, stylized and frequently washed in a bilious green tint, The Missing Person is yet oddly irresistible, its omnipresent anxiety like a musical chord that neither rises nor falls."
- Jeannette Catsoulis (New York Times)

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