Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Missing Person

Once in a while you have to break your own rules.

Today I braced the pouring rain in coat and boots to the local video store, Movie Madness. Inside I walked by one of their many window displays of authentic movie props, and let the rather small Maltese Falcon from the 1941 movie put me in the mood for noir. I'm sure the weather helped as well.  I have been repeatedly disappointed by the more recent throwbacks to noir (Brick, The Man Who Wasn't There, to name a few) but eventually I stumbled across The Missing Person (2008) and decided to give it a try. And this is why I'm breaking the rules, and talking about a contemporary film on a site that I'm so obsessed with dedicating to old movies that I'm even wary of uploading color photographs onto it.

This film was one of those rainy day surprises when you're kind of already content just plopping down on the couch and taking whatever comes but are soon wide awake and loving every moment. Of all of the noir tributes, I'm going to make a bold statement and say this is the most successful one I've seen. Going down the required elements, you've got cigarettes, trains, your Marlowe-esque P.I., liquor, jazz, dingy hotel rooms and even a femme fatale clothed in black. It takes on the noir persona so flawlessly that the eventual appearances/mentions of cell-phones, Google, segways and a few other 21st Century gizmos or references do nothing to shatter the mood. Michael Shannon (where has this actor been all my life?) takes you through the film (and its contradictory modern L.A. & NY locations) like a lazy saunter, or a Southern drawl, or warm wine in your stomach. Add to this a supporting role by Amy Ryan, a jazzy soundtrack and wonderful dialogue. By the end credits I was left completely satisfied, and a bit sleepy--as if I actually had warm wine in my stomach, or had been put into a trance.