Film: The Missing

The Missing is a 2003 western film directed by Ron Howard and starring Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett.

Magdalena Gilkeson is a widowed frontier woman living on her ranch in 1885 New Mexico with her two young daughters, Lily and Dot. Life isn't easy but the make the most of it with her live-in lover, Brake Baldwin. A mysterious man, Samuel Jones, dressed like an Apache Indian comes seeking shelter and Maggie gives him a bed and supper but is otherwise cold towards him. It's the father who had abandoned her and their family when she was young, and she blames him for her mother and brother dying without him there to help. When she and Dot discover their ranch hand and Brake brutally murdered in the nearby woods the next day and Lily missing, both done by a band of renegade Chiricahua men kidnapping girls to sell as sex slaves, Maggie is forced to put her feelings aside and accept her father's help to rescue her.

Tropes include:

  • Badass Grandpa: Samuel takes down several fierce Indian warriors on his own and is generally a great fighter.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: It is not said how it was done, but Brake's head is stuck in a bundle of animal skins hanging over a fire. All we know is that Dot heard him screaming, so possibly being skinned or dismembered alive.
    • A large bag like that over a fire also implies boiling to death.
  • Damsel in Distress: Lily, Kayitah's son's bride, and many other young women are captured by sex trafficking murderers who plan to drop them off in Mexico to be sold.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The racism the whites and Indians showed each other was how many people back in the day did.
  • Defiant Captive: Lily tries to fight in her own ways once she's captured, once getting herself beaten for running back to the cave to grab the sick toddler the men were going to abandon, and another time attempting to escape.
  • Disappeared Dad: The reason Maggie is so angry with Samuel.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: Modest by modern standards, but the kidnappers have Lily and the other girls wear "lipstick" and very dressy clothes to look more appealing to the future customers looking to buy them as sex slaves.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: The Gilkeson women, all three of them, though Lily can come off as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold sometimes.
  • Magical Native American: Samuel's old friend Kayitah. The villain, Pesh-Chidin, is this too, but a witch who uses his magic to harm. Samuel himself is white, but when he was accepted into the Chicahua culture, he become this as well.
  • Rape as Backstory: Inferred that Maggie's first daughter Lily is a Child by Rape.
  • The Savage Indian: Pesh - Chidin and the rest of his men.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Young Dot is fascinated by her grandfather's Apache ways and likes working on their farm while pretty Lily can't wait to get away from the barren plain and butchers a cow in fancy clothes.