Eye For Film >> Movies >> Missing Link (2019) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
What would you do if your kind had been hunted to the brink of extinction and, as far as you knew, you were the last of them? The chances are that you wouldn't be as polite or as persistently optimistic about life as Mr Link (voiced here by Zach Galifianakis), but then, despite a fearsome reputation based largely on the size of his feet, this lonely sasquatch is every inch a gentleman. Who better to turn to for help, then, than a fellow gentleman, legendary explorer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), who just might have what it takes to help him travel to the Himalayas and find his closest relatives? The trouble is, Frost has boasted of his exploits once too often. Men of influence in the Royal Society are concerned that he may be on the way to proving that most indelicate of theories, evolution. In keeping with English imperial tradition, they have set an assassin on his tail.
There's another snag. Neither Link nor Frost actually has a map - but they think they know where to get one. Enter the beautiful but dangerous widow Adelina (Zoe Saldana), with whom Frost shares a complicated past. When she proves resistant to his dubious charms, a bit of burglary is on the cards, but inevitably she outsmarts them and decides to join their quest for her own reasons. Together the unlikely trio must sail across the ocean, climb the mountains, win the trust of the local human population and confront another civilisation which may not be quite what Mr Link expected.
Hugh Jackman steals the show, having a whale of a time as the ambitious, egotistical yet somehow charming aristocrat with a reckless disregard for the safety of those around him. These days there are only really two ways to play heroes of the Empire - as monsters or as fools - and Frost convinces as somebody naive enough not to have given a thought to what he is part of, allowing the audience to cheer on his derring-do and laugh at his mistakes without disliking him. The frequently underrated Galifianakis brings real sweetness to Mr Link, keeping him interesting even though he's usually in the straight man role. Saldana holds her own remarkably well and although her character doesn't really get enough to do, she makes her presence felt. A break with formula close to the end gives her more interesting prospects than the average heroine in an adventure of this type.
What really makes the film is the delightful stop-motion animation by Laika studios, which adds a great deal to characters and action sequences alike. The sets are marvellously detailed and this carries over into the end credits, so don't stop viewing too early. There are lots of cute in-jokes for those with a knowledge of scientific history or cryptozoology, and there are a great many puns which younger viewers will love. Mr Link's tendency to take things literally generates quite a few laughs but he's never ridiculed for it and this, together with his obvious emotional intelligence, may make him particularly appealing to young autistic viewers. Frost gradually has to concede that his outsize companion's take on life is really not unreasonable.
Throughout, the film champions reason and the pursuit of knowledge over the traditional values of its villains. It deals with difficult issues around prejudice and exclusion, and its focus on the value of friendship is something every child will relate to. The various perils our heroes encounter are sufficient to generate excitement without being too much for younger viewers, so this really is an all-ages film. Though it didn't quite generate the noise it deserved on release, it's destined to become a staple viewing choice for many families.Reviewed on: 14 Nov 2019