Angelica Lee goes for a swim in MISSING, directed by Tsui Hark for Mandarin Films Distribution Co.

Missing (2008, Tsui Hark)

As Missing‘s end credits rolled, I could only think one thing–this movie is actually going to end. After the two dozen false endings in the third act, it really does feel like it’s never going to stop. There’s probably a post-credits tag, but I’ll never know.

Missing is a mix of Harry Potter, The Sixth Sense and Vanilla Sky. I don’t know why it’s got Harry Potter in there, but it does. There’s some stupid mysticism somewhere in it. Maybe a fight between ghosts or the promise of one. Whatever.

Strangely, until the last act–the big Vanilla Sky reveal (and I’m not feeling bad about spoiling this movie, because even after I say Vanilla Sky, I’m not even getting into those twelve false endings and the final twist)–Missing is completely watchable. The psychologist who sees ghosts following some kind of hypnosis drug? It’s kind of a good time killer. But Missing doesn’t just kill time, it somehow becomes light itself–infinitely long. Even when the movie isn’t bad, it’s long.

Some of the problem–well, technically, all of the problem, but I’m only going to cover some of it here–is how much Tsui Hark loves this movie. There are inexplicable voiceovers about the importance of the sea–both for environmental reasons and experimental psychotherapy. Or something along those lines. It all sounds like bull, so it’s hard to keep track.

His composition is fantastic and he has some great camera moves, but his script is something else. It’s not even neat in the way it all ties together. There are loose ends and the entire, end of the second act twist only works because he’s been deceiving the viewer the entire time. For one of the first times, I finally understood what Leonard Maltin meant when he complained about The Usual Suspects–you get to the end of the movie and it’s clear there wasn’t any reason to watch it. At the end of Missing, there’s this strange third act attempt to slap a big melodramatic romance onto the movie, but it doesn’t matter anymore… the dumb thing is almost over (finally). And it’s turned the protagonist into a brain-damaged simpleton and took the focus away from her, so what’s the point?

The acting in Missing is mediocre. Again, Tsui’s fault. Angelica Lee is never believable as a someone holding an MD, but she does the terrified thing pretty well. Once she turns into the simpleton… it gets painful. Isabella Leong is unimpressive throughout (occasionally, she has eyeshadow to act for her). Chang Chen is good, as is Tony Leung Ka Fai in a too small part.

Missing‘s such a good looking film, such a well-made one, there’s probably some argument for watching it–at least until the end of the second act. Then with the first big twist… well, I’m a little embarrassed I didn’t stop it. But I wasn’t expecting the third act to last three hundred minutes of the film’s two hour running time.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Tsui Hark; director of photography, Sakamoto Yoshitaka; edited by Yau Chi Wai; music by Ricky Ho; production designer, Kenneth Mak; produced by Tsui and Peter Chan; released by Mandarin Films Distribution Co.

Starring Angelica Lee (Dr. Gao Jing), Isabella Leong (Chen Xiao Kai), Chang Chen (Simon), Guo Xiaodong (Dave Chen Guo Dong), Tony Leung Ka Fai (Dr. Edward Tong) and Zhang Zhen-yue (Haiya Amu).

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