The Missing Person

Effective, cynical neo-noir detective trail.

Released in 2009, certified UK-Not Yet Rated. Reviewed on 18 Jan 2010 by Scott Morris
The Missing Person image

The Missing Person represents another of the occasionally revived noir thrillers that's occasionally allowed out for another romp in the sun before being sent back to wherever we keep our anachronisms these days. While this might not be quite so stunning as Brick, it's certainly well worth a look.

We join ex-cop turned private detective John Rosow (Michael Shannon) as he's given a new case, to tail one Harold Fullmer who is currently headed across country with a young child in tow. Not Fullmer's own kid. The obvious implication is that he's a paedophile, but of course it wouldn't be much of a noir if everything were quite as straightforward as they first appear.

So it goes, although giving the blow by blow account of the plot would probably be counter productive in getting you to see this film. And see it you should. While films like this and Brick may well be taking the old genre staples and wallowing in them, it's a damnably enjoyable wallow.

The Missing Person image

Shannon is excellent as the grizzled, alcoholic wisecracking detective, a protagonist that seems as out of place in the modern world as the film does in modern cinemas. The supporting turns are no less compelling and amusing, and taken together it pulls off to a tee the vital trick of getting us to root for characters that are not, in any traditional sense, likeable.

The Missing Person is often blisteringly funny, and while the narrative probably isn't going to hold any interest over repeat viewings the characters in here are. As more details about Rosow and Fullmer's lives and how they've changed after both being caught up in the attacks on the World Trade Centre are doled out, this provides a welcome depth to characters that would otherwise be enjoyable but ultimately disposable elements in an enjoyable but ultimately disposable film.

Now, I'm not saying that this is the definitive handling of post 9/11 trauma, but frankly I find it to be a far more respectful handling of them than, say Oliver Stone's World Trade Center. This treats the attacks as a one defining event in people's lives, but not the entirety of it. It uses events to inform characters rather than simply make a spectacle of an atrocity.

Funny, cynical, enjoyable and engaging. Custom built to appeal to me, then. Well worth seeking out.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 4/5 TippyMarks.

Noah Buschel
Cast list:
Michael Shannon (John Rosow)
Amy Ryan (Miss Charley)
Frank Wood (Harold Fullmer)
Linda Emond (Megan Fullmer)
Paul Sparks (Gus Papitos)