Just when you thought that the mystery genre had been killed off on television by the plethora of dull procedural forensics shows, “The Missing” shows up to reinvigorate the hope that there can still be thoughtful, well-told, and suspenseful stories that leave you hanging on the edge of your seat with every step forward in the case. The setup is deceptively simple, but a worse nightmare for parents one could scarcely imagine. In 2006, Tony (James Nesbitt) and Emily Hughes (Frances O’Connor) come to France on holiday with their five-year-old son Oliver (Oliver Hunt). After a swim at a local outdoor pool with his father, Oliver mysteriously disappears, sending his parents into a panic as they get the police involved in the search.
With next to nothing to go on, they are forced to grab at any leads they can, no matter how small they may be, including a known sex-offender by the name of Vincent Bourg (Titus De Voogdt). Complicating matters are a mysterious benefactor, Ian Garrett (Ken Stott), who puts up a large reward for information about the case, but who may have a connection to Bourg, Malik Suri (Arsher Ali), a journalist who is trying to leach off the story by blackmailing one of the detectives involved, and a violent incident from Tony’s past.
In a fascinating structural twist, the story is told simultaneously from the present (2014) as well. We find that Tony and Emily are no longer together, but the former’s obsession with finding out what happened to his son has done nothing but eat away at him for the past eight years, causing him to come back to the small town where their life-changing nightmare occurred. With help from the detective who originally worked the case, Julien Baptiste (Tcheky Karyo), he once again hunts down any clue that might lead him to the truth, including a picture of someone wearing Oliver’s scarf. As we soon see, a case that was once thought to be cold immediately comes to life again as this little clue leads to a bigger picture that could once and for all give Tony the answer he’s been searching for.
“The Missing” is one of the best mysteries to grace television screens in several years. It takes exceptional skill to unfold a story like this with great precision and at just the right pace, even more so when the writers give themselves an even more complicated challenge by telling their tale in two different time periods. However, Harry and Jack Williams have pulled off this amazing feat by giving us a fascinating glimpse into how the many different pieces of the case come together, in addition to how the characters become the people we find eight years after the incident. In truth, we the audience are Tony, as it seems is the intended effect, grasping at any little clue that comes along that could possibly solve the mystery. Whenever he finds a faint glimmer of hope, we can’t help but feel for him and hope right along with him that it will lead to Oliver.
This, of course, would not be possible if not for a number of compelling performances, including James Nesbitt (“The Hobbit” Trilogy) as Tony, Frances O’Connor (“A.I.”) as Emily, and Tcheky Karyo (“Goldeneye”) as Julien, as well as several other members of the ensemble. Nesbitt and O’Connor make you feel their immense pain, while the former also gives an unwavering and indomitable perseverance in his commitment to finding out the truth. Karyo gives his character a level-headedness that allows him to remain calm and logical in his pursuit to help Tony, but his commitment never appears to be any less than his. Their performances are what make this a rich, unsettling, and yet, completely immersive story, for to give any less to these characters may have had the disastrous effect of turning it into nothing more than a soap-opera level melodrama, despite the excellent writing.
What we’re left with is a thrilling and spellbinding mystery that keeps you thoroughly engaged for its entire eight-hour runtime. Some may find it a little disorienting to jump back and forth between the two time periods, but the extra dimension it adds to the experience is well-worth having to keep track of two sets of events. Any show can just take a mystery and tell it straightforward, but to have it split half and half between a somewhat recent past and present takes guts and elegant precision to make sure everything comes together in the end. It’s heartbreaking, nail-biting, and will even elicit discussion as to its outcome. “The Missing” is a rarity, and is exactly the kind of ambitious storytelling that television needs to be taking more risks with.
“The Missing: Season One” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.78:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. This is a rather dark and gritty show with a mostly drab look overall, but the picture remains perfectly sharp throughout, even in the dimmest of scenes. The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio is a little on the soft side, so you may need to adjust the volume some, but once fixed, you are treated to a fantastic track that presents all elements in fine quality. Overall, you could hardly ask for better from either department.
Behind the Scenes, Transformations, and Time Changes All: Three extremely brief (two to two and a half minutes) and superficial featurettes that don’t tell you much of anything. All three are easily skippable.
“The Missing” is an expertly-crafted mystery that will keep you glued to your television screen for its entire eight-hour runtime. Featuring excellent performances from its trio of leads, writers Harry and Jack Williams have fashioned a tale that not only has you witnessing the immediate aftermath of the disappearance, but also the consequences several years later, turning this into a fascinating, unique, and ambitious piece of storytelling that one can’t help but get engrossed in.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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