Missing 1982 | Movie Watchlist


With MISSING, Costa-Gavras (Z; STATE OF SEIGE; THE CONFESSION), one of cinema's most political filmmakers, turned his attention to the alleged US involvement in the coup that led to the death of socialist Chilean president Salvador Allende in 1973. Based on Thomas Hauser's The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice, Costa-Gavras's first Hollywood-produced film presents an only slightly fictionalized account of the disappearance of American expatriate writer Charles Horman (John Shea) in Santiago (though neither the city nor Chile are ever mentioned) just after a military coup. His wife, Beth (Sissy Spacek), and his conservative father, Ed (Jack Lemmon), who has traveled from the US, become a political odd couple as they search for Charles, growing closer as they run into the official stonewalling of American embassy and Chilean authorities who insist there is no trace of Charles. Costa-Gavras pulled so few punches in this powerful, provocative thriller that then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig felt compelled to issue categorical denials of the film's allegations. Few films fuse the personal and the political as successfully as MISSING, and Lemmon and Spacek bring tremendous feeling to their portrayals. Though Costa-Gavras clearly has a political axe to grind, he manages to do so without haranguing the viewer, keeping the film's focus on his characters and masterfully building tension as the story moves toward its stinging resolution.