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on October 6, 1999
My husband was born in Chile and his family moved to the US in 1975. His father was held for 3 years in one of the concentration camps. His mother made the children sleep under the beds out of fear from the soldiers. His father was one of the lucky ones to survive, not without the emotional scars to show for it. They have watched this movie and my husband and I own it. His parents have seen it only once, saying that they lived it, and can't bear to relive it. This movie is very real, and those things really happened. If you are at all interested in Chilean history, or civil rights, or if you are in the mood for an incredible movie, I highly suggest this film.
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on November 20, 2001
Based on the true story of Charles Horman,a young American journalist who mysteriously vanished during Chile's 1973 coup and was later found dead, MISSING is an extremely well-constructed political drama--the first American film from Greek director Costa-Gavras (Z, STATE OF SIEGE).
John Shea portrays Charles Horman, who, while covering Chile with a friend (Melanie Mayron), disappears from view, causing his wife (Sissy Spacek) to ask for help from Shea's staunch "my country right or wrong" father Ed (Jack Lemmon). Lemmon openly disapproves of Shea's and Spacek's political views and staunchly supports the preservation of the American way of life. Unfortunately, his rose-colored view of his country slowly but surely come apart as he and Spacek, who are initially at considerable odds, unravel bit by bit important details. As one Chilean informant tells them, Shea disappeared because "he knew too much." He knew that thousands of innocent people were being murdered by the new Chilean government, a staunch right-wing one that ousted a far more Marxist regime led by Salvador Allende.
Eventually, MISSING comes to a point of increased sadness and anger, as Lemmon comes to realize that not only was Shea killed (in the national soccer stadium), but that his own government probably had a hand in doing it. The unfolding tragedy brings Lemmon and Spacek together in the end.
A very poignant and highly dramatic story, with a fine score by Vangelis, MISSING also boasts typically top-of-the-line performances by Lemmon and Spacek, who have never been anything less than watchable. The script by Costa-Gavras and Donald Stewart (the latter of whom would do the adaptations of three Tom Clancy novels in the 1990s), won a richly-deserved Oscar for adapted screenplay (from Thomas Hauser's similarly-titled novel).
As to the previous reviewer's attack on the film as left-wing propaganda, I honorably but strongly disagree with that notion.
The facts have shown that the U.S. government supported the coup against Allende only because he believed in communism, but the regime that came to power then systematically trampled over the basic human rights of its people. And here, it very well may have contributed to the death of a young American--and the U.S. government turned its back on that man! No government anywhere in the world, anti-communist or otherwise, is worth American support if it ignores human rights. THAT is the political arguement clearly at the heart of this excellent 1982 drama.
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on September 23, 2004
First of all, this review is based on the VHS version. I am trying to decide on what extras are included on the DVD before purchasing it.

This is one of the saddest movies I've ever seen. Its a story about disillusionment with ones government seen through the eyes of a father, Ed Hormann (Jack Lemmon) searching for his son, Charles Hormann, in the aftermath of the CIA sponsored overthrow of the Allende Government in Chile, 1972.

Helping him bridge the gap between his utopian view of the United States as promoter and savior of democracy and his son's leftward leaning, Vietnam War era generation view of the world is his daughter in law, Beth Hormann, (Sissy Spacek).

Throughout the ordeal of their search Jack Lemmons character has his eyes pried open to what is happening and he gains respect and admiration for the strength of his son and, especially, his daughter in law, where before existed only contempt at their choice of a "bohemian" lifestyle.

This is based on a true story and the story is continuing to unfold. With immunity being stripped from General Pinochet, many of the documents and witnesses surrounding the events leading up to the roundup and execution of these "leftists" are being brought to light and used against the former dictator in both criminal and civil suits; one of which is based on the events of this movie.

I highly recommend this movie as a human drama and as a historical reference. I can't imagine someone watching this movie and not doing a google search for the true story of these events. When I saw this movie during its general release I ran to the library to do research on the facts surrounding this sad chapter in US diplomacy.

If you do, we all keep Charles Hormann alive in some way.
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on November 23, 2004
Based on Thomas Hauser's book, "The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice", Costa Govras' MISSING caused a sensation when it was first released. Winner of the Palm D'Or, and nominated for a slew of Oscars, the film details the true events of Charles Horman, a 31 year old filmmaker and writer who, along with his wife, were living in Chile when the Allende government was overthrown in a bloody coup d'etat on (ironically) Sept. 11, 1973. Horman disappeared soon after, leaving his wife Joyce (named Beth in the movie) and father in a desperate search to find him amidst the tumultuous political terror of the Pinochet regime. Led in circles by incompetent US embassy and government officials, it becomes clear that the United States may very well have conspired in Horman's disappearance...

With the recent events of Pinochet's hopeful trial for crimes against humanity, and the obvious occupation of Iraq under the Bush administration, MISSING remains a political powerhouse. But the film also works on a very human level -- how a father comes to learn more about his son than he ever imagined, and the terrible knowledge that our country participated in the overthrow of one of the oldest Democratically-elected governments in favor of a tyrant who killed thousands of human beings.

Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek are at the top of their form, and Vangelis provides a simple, haunting score.

For more information on the Horman case, go to "The Charles Horman Truth Project" at [...] Also, I strongly recommend the book, "The Pinochet File" at
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Costa-Gavras shot his controversial 'State of Siege' in Chile not long before the violent US-backed Allende coup. Maybe it's that familiarity with the locale that makes Costa-Gavras' 'Missing' seem so authentic.

More than just a startling vision of day-to-day life in the aftermath of a violent coup, there's much more of a feeling for the place and what ordinary people lost in the coup. There's a real sense of chaos in its imagery - dead bodies littering the streets as people try to go about their daily business or floating by in rivers, soldiers chasing and shooting at a white horse through deserted streets or diners on a rooftop garden leaving their meals to watch a helicopter gunship shoot at unseen curfew violators. The sheer casual and irrational nature of violence ("You Americans always assume there has to be a reason") gives the film a palpable sense of terror and dread: this is a place where even an earthquake can't get people out onto the dangerous streets after curfew.

The fact that this time round Costa-Gavras had a Hollywood budget to play with helps immensely, but he also has a script based around people who aren't defined strictly by their politics - indeed, the movie is basically a search for `a political neophyte' by a gruff and unlikeable conservative (Jack Lemmon, on excellent form) and the missing man's wife (Sissy Spacek), a search that takes in embassies crowded with asylum seekers, morgues with hundreds of bodies piled almost haphazardly and the national football stadium that has been turned into a vast prison/torture chamber/place of execution. It's an outraged film but it's also one aware of its own impotence - this is a journey from hope to bitter and exhausted acceptance that there is nothing that an individual can do in the face of politically expedient mass murder.

It's easily Costa-Gavras' real enduring masterpiece, having lost none of its power more than a quarter of a century on, and its sobering to think that there was a time when movies like this weren't just mainstream releases, they were also big box-office.

After only being available on one of Universal's shoddiest DVDs - it doesn't even have a menu page! - the film is finally getting the Criterion treatment it deserves with a two-disc set including:

- Video interviews with Costa-Gavras and Joyce Horman (wife of Charles Horman).
- Producing Missing, an interview documentary featuring producers Edward and Mildred Lewis, studio exec Sean Daniel, and Thomas Hauser, author of Missing, the film's source book.
- Interviews from the 1982 Cannes Film Festival with Costa-Gavras, Jack Lemmon, Ed Horman (father of Charles), and Joyce Horman. Unfortunately, as these were made for a live French TV broadcast these are simultaneously translated into French.
- New video essay with Peter Kornbluh, author of The Pinochet File, examining declassified documents concerning the 1973 military coup in Chile and the case of Charles Horman.
- Video highlights from the 2002 Charles Horman Truth Project event honoring the twentieth anniversary of Missing, with actors Sissy Spacek, John Shea, and Melanie Mayron
- Theatrical trailer
- A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Michael Wood, an interview with Costa-Gavras, the U.S. State Department's official response to Missing, and an open letter from Horman family friend Terry Simon.

But buy it anyway for the film itself. It's worth it.
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on October 18, 2006
The reviewer who wrote a wonderful summary of this film but had reservations about the veracity of its political claims might like to check out the State Department's FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) website. Since 1976 the State Department, the US government bad guys in the movie, have secretly concluded that the CIA had olayed an "unfortunate role" in Mr. Horman's death. The document wherein their investigators report this has finally been declassified and is available on the website. In addition, the Chilean Supreme Court has named former US Consul Fred Purdy (Phil Putnam in the movie), who lives as a private citizen in Chile, as a suspect. The film turned out to be far more accurate than even Costa-Gavras would have imagined.When pondering anti-Americanism, watch this film again: it shows how peoples from other nations become anti-American. Fifteen years ago I was in Chile, talking to someone who had been imprisoned by the military. He told me: "We don't hate Americans. We hate what your foreign policy does to our country." We need intelligence operations and foreign policy; perhaps they just need to be a little more carefully considered and reflective of our values. That is the message I got from Missing.
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on December 15, 2004
Missing is more timely than ever. As of this writing (December 2004) the notorious Chilean dictator Pinochet is now on trial for crimes against humanity in his native country where, if justice prevails, he will be dealt with harshly. In this film, set in an unnamed country but obviously Chile (the cities of Vina del Mar and Santiago are referred to explicitly), Charlie Horman and his wife Beth have come to live, circa the mid to late 70s, and it is there that Charlie goes missing.

The extreme violence of the regime is depicted well here--people are executed both on- and off-screen--but even more piercing is the intentional, cold callousness of the obviously complicitous Americans with titles--either military or political--who think nothing of mentioning a freight charge to an American who has just recently found out about the death of his son and wants the body sent back to the US.

In probably his best dramatic performance on film, Jack Lemmon portrays Ed Horman, Charlie's father, who, with Beth, initiates a search for his missing son. At first dismissive of Beth's clearly liberal politics, he quickly comes to understand the reason for her cynicism. In the face of harsh indifference, brutal lies, and extreme violence, his humanity emerges and we see a man at the end of his tether expressing what is deepest and truest in his heart.

Sissy Spacek as Beth is also very fine, as is the supporting cast--John Shea as Charlie, Charles Cioffi as the snide Major Towers, Joe Regalbuto as a friend of Charlie's who refuses to accept just how bad things are, and David Clennon as a particularly obnoxious American diplomat. But this is a tour-de-force for Jack Lemmon and he is absolutely riveting.

In this film, Costa-Gavras has gravitated from the somewhat one-dimensional--though groundbreaking--focus in Z on political corruption to political violence that directly impacts the lives of two individuals who respond humanly to it. This gives the film a profound emotional depth that we did not see in Z, and makes it supremely compelling. Though Z is a great film, this, I feel, is far superior; I count it as Costa-Gavras' best, in fact.

Based on true events, Missing is a powerful film that will stand the test of time for decades to come. One of the best films of the 80s--highly recommended.
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Constantin Costa-Gavros is one of my favorite directors and film makers. In 1982 he crossed into the main stream with the Hollywood backed "Missing." This is a film about the military coup, led by General Agusto Pinochet, and the violent overthrow of Chile's democratically elected President Salvador Allende's Popular Unity Government in 1973. The U.S. government, and the CIA, assisted the Chilean military in the coup. This is a terrible tale of the torture and murder of innocents, and the personal, true story of one of them, U.S. citizen Charles Horman. Horman was a gentle, kind young man with a love of writing and the arts.
Charles and his wife Beth, movingly portrayed by Sissy Spacek, were living in Chile, as were many foreigners at that time, to learn about the new socialist coalition government that had come together under Allende. There was much excitement and idealism in the air. Horman, after witnessing US government military and CIA officials in Valparaiso, Chile, was driven back to Santiago by an American stranger, during the first hours of the coup. He disappeared shortly after his return home. Not one member of his family, or his friends saw him alive again.
Charles Horman's father, brilliantly played by Jack Lemmon, traveled to Santiago immediately, and he and Beth began a long, terrifying and unrewarding search for the disappeared young man. Mr. Horman was very conservative politically, and disapproved of Charles' and Beth's move to Chile. He was a patriotic American who believed that the US government would certainly help him find his son. He slowly began to acknowledge the truth, with Beth leading the way, about the US Embassy's cover-ups and lies. The American foreign service personnel, and US Ambassador, obviously knew the whereabouts and fate of his son, and her husband, and that of many of their disappeared friends.
This is a political drama of the first order. The poignancy and sadness of the lives lost, and the terrible military dictatorship that replaced a democracy, in a country known for its stable, democratic government, is portrayed realistically, in a docu-drama style. The acting is superb. The screen play certainly deserved the Oscar it received.
Whatever your politics, the events portrayed in this film did occur. There is much food for thought in this powerful film.
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VINE VOICEon February 6, 2001
Costa_GAvras,having covered this ground brilliantly before{Z< THE CONFESSION} turns to Chile and the coup against Salvador Allende. He tells the story of a missing american man,Charlie Horman{well portrayed by John Shea,a very underrated actor}who disappeared during the coup. That the anmericans organized this coup, according to this movie[and the Church commitee hearings] is undeniable. Sheas wife is very well played by Sissy Spacek,who , in desperation turns to Charlies disapproving father, Jack Lemmon,[in the performance of his career] for help. Slowly, this mild mannered Christian Scientist slowly comes to the truth about his son, and his own goverments complicity in these events.Slowly,he begins to simmer, then his emotions,held in check, explode in an automobile ride as he witnesses a man being killed by soldiers. His scenes pleading with the state department are gut wrenching, as are the scenes in the futbol stadium,and the final galling humiliation from the government. A story,ultimately of of a father coming to grips with himself and his son,amidst the backdrop of insanity. Still topical, like all the best thrillers,and magnificent.
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on April 21, 2008
During the Cold War (1945-1990) it was the policy of successive US governments to maintain authoritarian right-wing governments in power all around the world if there was a possibility that they might be replaced by one from the left, democratic or otherwise. As the US ambassador in this film reminds us `we act in the interests of the United States', not in the interests of the country which happens to be suffering under a dictatorship. We can accept this on an intellectual level - how else can the US government establishment act - but in this movie Costa-Gavras uses his very considerable skills as a film-maker to rouse even diehard conservatives to anger over the methods used to ensure Pax Americana.

He does this by dramatizing the real-life story of one of their number, Ed Holman (Jack Lemmon), a businessman from New York and a Christian Scientist with faith in Truth, into the aftermath of a military coup in an unnamed South American country with the capital of Santiago. His son Charles (John Shea), a vaguely left-wing journalist and writer, living in the city with his wife Beth (Sissy Spacek), has disappeared after being arrested a few days after the coup and carted off to a makeshift concentration camp in the National Stadium. Initially, Ed believes the people at the American consulate and embassy really are there to help him, but it soon turns out they have an agenda of their own. Ed and his son's wife start out on bad terms but Ed comes to appreciate her bravery in the face of a very unstable situation. He also comes to realize the moral worth of his son, who he had previously regarded as a bit of a playboy, much as he had loved him.

What "Missing" cannot say, though it says a lot, is that the country it portrays is Chile in the first days of the unelected reign of Pinochet. What it does say, much of which has been corroborated by recently unclassified documents, is that the United States, led by the statesmanship of Henry Kissinger, supported Pinochet's coup and toppling of a democratically elected regime because they were not friendly enough to "American interests." The bottom line, as the movie makes inarguably clear, is that Pinochet was propped up into power largely thanks to the United States; the blood of thousands of Chileans is thus partially on our hands. This is the larger political point of the film. Until our government owns up to this, one of the most abominable and least-discussed crimes of the Nixon administration, the film "Missing," despite being a fictional take on true events, will be an enormously important document. This is art so close to politics that there's almost no art there. But it still must be seen; the message is too important. All Americans need to confront this episode in our past and come to terms with the fact that our government is a democracy only up to a point. Beyond that point, there are decisions made that we have no control over, no knowledge of, but nonetheless result in horrific events.

Costa-Gavras sketches a Santiago beyond all nightmares, so hellish that it simply had to be true. With almost constant gunfire and monstrosities going on in plain view, we watch Chileans suffer enormously under the strain and stress. The film is an exercise in impotence, de-humanization. Ed Holman (Jack Lemmon), in one of his most courageous performances, has the humility to offer an utterly normal American man's reaction to all this. First he trusts his government, and then, as he realizes that they are at fault for his son's death, he simply implodes. He makes threats but we are instantly told they will achieve nothing. He is even reprimanded by the American officials responsible; his son should have not been a "snoop": "you play with fire, you get burned." He crumples, worn down by a world more brutal than imaginable. It is the price we pay, the film seems to say, for living in a safe, wealthy country like America: this blood on our hands that we don't ever think about. And then, if we are forced to confront it, our own ignorance leaves us too weak to deal with it.

Ed Holman's character's impotence is matched by that of his son's, in his arrest and death. This is one of the bleakest films I have ever seen on the subject of individuality in the face of the state. Chile is meant to stand both for the 3rd world and America- both at once, complicit in this mini-Holocaust. His son is a decent guy, totally harmless, attempting to "be connected to the whole enchilada," as his wife puts it, but certainly no revolutionary. But what does this life, this human being who has lived with integrity, matter when bulldozed by the sweep of a machine-like government? Indeed, the US officials who pretend to help Ed Holman are truly cogs; emotionless, deadpan, their portrayal is surely propagandistic- the politicos of our worst fears. But the film's resonance is more the possibility that this was true; it seems likely, given what is now known of Nixon's administration. What other sort of people could have knowingly perpetrated such monstrosities besides Eichmanns, empty of soul or conscience, pure puppets?

As I said, there is ultimately little art in this film. It is certainly not about the triumph of the human spirit, as the battle is already lost before Ed Holman gets to Chile. No, it is more about the total negation of the human spirit, and body, for that matter, in the face of the indomitable state. Problematic as it may be, this art document leaves a strictly political aftertaste, because it so convincingly asks the question: why, as a country, have we not come to terms with the fact that our government is responsible for events like this, time and time again?
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