Theatrical release poster
|Produced by||Edward Lewis|
Donald E. Stewart
by Thomas Hauser
|Edited by||Françoise Bonnot|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$14-16 million (US) |
Missing (stylized as missing.) is a 1982 American historical drama film directed by Costa-Gavras and starring Sissy Spacek, Jack Lemmon, Melanie Mayron, John Shea, Janice Rule and Charles Cioffi. It is based on the true story of American journalist Charles Horman, who disappeared in the bloody aftermath of the US-backed Chilean coup of 1973 that deposed the democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende. Set largely during the days and weeks following Horman's disappearance, the movie depicts his father and wife searching to determine his fate. The film examines the relationship between Horman's wife Beth (Spacek) and her father-in-law, American businessman Ed Horman (Lemmon).
The film was released theatrically on February 12, 1982. It was shown in competition at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival where it was jointly awarded the Palme d'Or (along with the Turkish film Yol). It received four nominations at the 55th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Lemmon), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Spacek) and winning Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium). Missing grossed $16 million against its $9.5 million budget. The film was banned in Chile during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship, even though neither Chile nor Pinochet is ever mentioned by name (although the Chilean cities of Viña del Mar and Santiago are).
Ed Horman (Jack Lemmon) arrives in Chile to search for his son Charles (John Shea), who worked as a journalist and disappeared during the recent military coup. Ed meets his daughter-in-law, Beth (Sissy Spacek), with whom he has a strained relationship and they fight over politics. Ed blames his son and daughter-in-law's radical political views for Charles' disappearance, while Beth blames the American government. Ed uses his connections to meet with various government officials to find out the truth about his son's disappearance.
As he investigates, Ed finds that the American embassy is not as helpful as he thought they would be and he suspects them of hiding information about Charles. One U.S. diplomat is polite and friendly but constantly lies to him; a high-ranking American military attache is blunter and tells Ed that whatever happened to Charles was his own fault, noting "You play with fire, you get burned." Together, he and Beth learn that the U.S. had many interests in the country that have been enhanced by the coup and its aftermath and that many military officials aided Pinochet in the coup. As Ed becomes disillusioned with the American government, he comes to respect the work Beth and Charles were doing and he and Beth reconcile. When they receive proof that Charles was murdered by the junta and that the U.S. let it happen, he tells the embassy officials "I just thank God we live in a country where we can still put people like you in jail!"
The film ends with a postscript stating that after his return to the United States, Ed received the body of his son Charles seven months later, making an autopsy impossible, and that a subsequent lawsuit against the US government was dismissed. It also adds that the State Department denies its involvement in the Pinochet coup, a position maintained to the present day.
Missing is based on a book that was first published under the title The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice (1978) by Thomas Hauser (later republished under the title Missing in 1982), and inspired by the case of Charles Horman, who vanished in Chile. The film was shot in Mexico, with a budget of $9.5 million from Universal Studios, marking Costa-Gavras' most expensive production.
The score is by the Greek electronic composer Vangelis. The movie's piano theme has been used extensively in commercials, but an official release of the film's soundtrack has not yet occurred. The main theme appeared first on Vangelis' 1989 album Themes. The main theme is also available on the Festival de Cannes (60th Anniversary) compilation of famous soundtracks. A bootleg release of the soundtrack exists. A sung version with lyrics by Tim Rice has been recorded by Elaine Paige and Nana Mouskouri. A 7-inch single was released by Polydor in 1989 
Missing was released in theaters on February 12, 1982, in limited theaters and was released widely on March 12, 1982, in 733 theaters. It ranked at #3 at the box office, grossing $2.3 million. In its first week, it grossed $5.5 million. In its second weekend, it landed at #5, making $1.8 million. For its second week, it made $2.3 million. After 49 days and 7 weeks in theaters, the film made between $14 and $16 million in the US.
The film was released on both VHS and Laserdisc, in 1982 and 1987, by MCA Videocassette, MCA Videodisc, and MCA Home Video respectively. The VHS version was pulled from the market due to the lawsuit filed against director Costa-Gavras. Universal Home Video re-released Missing on DVD in 2004, following the dismissal of the lawsuit. A special edition DVD was released by The Criterion Collection in October 2008.
In 1983, a year after the film's theatrical release, both the film (then in the home video market) and Thomas Hauser's book The Execution of Charles Horman were removed from the United States market following a lawsuit filed against Costa-Gavras and Universal Pictures's (then) parent company MCA by former ambassador Nathaniel Davis and two others for defamation of character. A lawsuit against Hauser himself was dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired. Davis and his associates lost their lawsuit, after which the film was re-released by Universal in 2006.
Roger Ebert gave the film three stars, writing that while the film was being cited for courage in criticism of the U.S. government, the criticism was clouded by its direction, but the best scenes were where Lemmon and Spacek's character were bogged down by the embassy's "niceties" in their search.Vincent Canby, writing for The New York Times, positively reviewing the message and Ricardo Aronovich's cinematography.
In his 2015 Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin awarded Missing three and a half stars, highlighting Lemmon's acting and crediting Costa-Gavras as a skilled director. The film has a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 29 reviews.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Academy Awards||11 April 1983||Best Picture||Edward Lewis and Mildred Lewis||Nominated|||
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Costa-Gavras and Donald Stewart||Won|
|Best Actor||Jack Lemmon||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Sissy Spacek||Nominated|
|British Academy Film Awards||20 March 1983||Best Film||Edward Lewis and Mildred Lewis||Nominated|||
|Best Actor||Jack Lemmon||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Sissy Spacek||Nominated|
|Best Screenplay||Costa-Gavras and Donald Stewart||Won|
|Best Editing||Françoise Bonnot||Won|
|Best Score||Vangelis Papathanassiou||Nominated|
|Cannes Film Festival||14 - 26 May 1982||Palme d'Or||Costa-Gavras||Won|||
|Best Actor||Jack Lemmon||Won|
|Golden Globes||29 January 1983||Best Motion Picture - Drama||Missing||Nominated|||
|Best Director - Motion Picture||Costa-Gavras||Nominated|
|Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama||Jack Lemmon||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama||Sissy Spacek||Nominated|
|London Film Critics' Circle||1982||Best Film||Costa-Gavras||Won|||
|National Board of Review||14 February 1983||Top Ten Films||Missing||Won|||