Having learned nothing from the debacle of flimsy film premises being drawn out over the course of a television series (Kidnapped, Harper’s Island, and The Firm leap immediately to mind), Gregory Poirier’s Missing is little more than a one-line elevator pitch with some fancy choreography and flashy scenery: Using her connections and skills as a former CIA agent, Becca Winstone (Ashley Judd) travels to Europe to track down her kidnapped son (Nick Eversman). The problem is, while she claims, “I will do anything to get my boy,” the first two episodes shy away from anything ethically compromising and already suffer from the same listless energy as last year’s The Killing, which tried to make prolongment into an artistic statement.
Because the show presumably (and hopefully) ends as soon Becca accomplishes her mission and gets revenge on her son’s captors, Missing gluts itself on obstacles, no matter how farfetched. It’s as if the tortoise decided to handicap itself in the race against the hare, and so in addition to the shadowy kidnappers, Becca’s also going up against the corrupt foreign intelligence agents and criminals she alienated when she was a spy, as well as the CIA itself, which ostensibly wants her returned to U.S. soil before she causes an international incident. (When has this particular fear ever held America back before?) And while she’s aided by a sympathetic CIA agent, Dax Miller (Cliff Curtis), and an Interpol agent (Adriano Giannini) with whom she appears to have some steamy history, heaven forbid either one of them actually use their resources to get her son back; instead, Becca remains one step behind, following the trail each week to a new European location.
If Becca were portrayed by a more capable actress (Maria Bello, for instance), this hybrid between a cold and calculating agent and a fiery and illogical mother might feel more believable; Judd rarely seems capable of more than three or four expressions, and she plays them directly to the camera like the attention-starved and overly doting mother the producers make her out to be before revealing that both she and her murdered husband (who, given that he’s played by Sean Bean, is almost certainly not dead) were spies.
Thankfully, much of the series is dedicated to car chases, shoot-outs, parkour, and the other elements of Hollywood espionage, and though Judd is an unlikely action hero, she’s at least un-horrible at the physical stuff. So while the one-liners are sub-CSI: Miami (“Time to upgrade,” quips Becca as she overrides a security system; “Oh, no,” she monotones upon discovering a corpse), the cinematography and fight choreography serve to at least temporarily keep both the audience and cast breathless.