22 November 2014 | l_rawjalaurence
Moody Thriller Inspired by Contemporary Events
THE MISSING is a timely intervention, as its plot has strong echoes of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the four-year-old who disappeared from a holiday apartment in Praia de Luz, a resort in the Algarve in 2007. Madeleine has still not been found, even after an extensive police search; but hitherto the search has led to speculation about the role of Madeleine"s parents in the affair, and whether or not they were involved in abducting her.
In Harry and Jack Williams' drama, set in France in 2006 and 2014, Tony and Emily Hughes (James Nesbitt, Frances O"Connor) are on holiday when their five-year-old son Oliver (Oliver Hunt) is mysteriously abducted on the night of the World Cup Final in 2006 between France and Brazil. No one appears to know where he is; and the incident goes cold until 2014, when Tony discovers new evidence in a Facebook photograph as to where Oliver might be. He enlists the help of retired detective Julien Baptiste (Tchéky Karyo), and embarks on a quest that is mostly frustrating, but sometimes enlightening.
Tom Shankland's production vividly communicates the experience of trying to deal with institutions such as the police and/or the justice system in a foreign country; in Tony's eyes at least, they seem inefficient and dedicated to obstructing rather than facilitating the task of finding Oliver. On the other hand, there are equally corrupt forces at work among the British community, most notably centering round the mysterious philanthropist Ian Garrett (Ken Stott). What seems like a routine disappearance of an infant turns into something much more sinister.
Filmed mostly in Belgium, the production makes great play of the contrast between the chocolate-box settings of the village (where Oliver disappears) and the nefarious goings-on taking place inside the buildings. The atmosphere is well summed up through an astute of symbols - a fly crawling up a net curtain suggesting corruption, a hand-held camera behind Emily's head indicating uncertainty.
Nesbitt offers a convincing portrayal of an outwardly ordinary British citizen with a questionable past, that leads the Inspector to suspect that Tony might not quite be the whiter-than-white victim he pretends to be.
The production unfolds slowly, with considerable emphasis placed on atmospherics, but each episode ends on a convincing cliff-hanger encouraging viewers to watch even more.