The Missing Person
I’m a master at looking like I care what you’re talking about.

Theatrical Release Date: 01/22/2010
Director: Noah Buschel
Cast: Michael Shannon, Amy Ryan, Frank Wood, John Ventimiglia, Paul Sparks, Margaret Colin

Getting a limited run in theaters is writer/director Noah Buschel’s “The Missing Person”, a sort of film noir about a private investigator (Michael Shannon) with post traumatic stress disorder and a case that will either help him confront his own trauma or solidify his alcoholic slide into nothingness.

The film takes a very interesting approach to telling its story. At times, it plays with the color scheme of scenes to reflect Shannon’s mood, which is especially effective as the film begins and nearly all color has been drained from shots and seems to slowly come back as he gets up to speed on what his latest case entails. Also, there are musical transitions between scenes, largely comprised of jazz or classical interpretations which help to set the mood, though this is where issues begin to develop.

Buschel does a nice job of setting a mysterious tone to the film, keeping the audience in the dark and feeding only what information is necessary to keep the plot moving. But when a flashback sequence or transition is made, there is a clear break with the energy and pacing of the film. This is evident most clearly in three marvelous scenes, where Shannon’s character meets a fellow transplanted New Yorker driving a cab, chats it up with some federal agents on a stakeout and disparages a cop riding a segway. These quirky exchanges are light, fun and cleverly written and left me yearning for more of the same whereas the film otherwise kept itself bottled up and shrouded in its noir-esque sensibilities. It also took some time to become at ease with the music choices, as early on they feel very strange and almost disconnected but I was able to settle into it midway through.

On the performance side of things, everyone was well cast. Shannon’s furrowed brows and constant semblance of a man in need of a prune smoothie match up well to a character beset by inner demons he’s not willing to let go of yet. Amy Ryan, who has worked with Buschel before always seems to turn in a good performance, does so again here as the go-between between Shannon and the client who hires him. Frank Wood, John Ventimiglia and Margaret Colin also add their efforts into creating this at odd/gritty film.

I do think that Buschel spent too much time creating this brooding mentality and that you probably shouldn’t watch this late at night, as there isn’t enough energy in bits to keep things very lively. However, I liked “The Missing Person” on the whole, appreciating the clever writing and artistic touches Buschel threw in enough to give the film a 3 out of 5. If you like film noir, this might be something up your alley, though keep in mind that the quirkiness of some of the side characters keep this from truly belonging in that genre.