|Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in The Missing.|
He does not have Daniel Craig’s suave charisma or Clive Owen’s intellectual charm or Gerard Butler’s (woefully overexposed) sexy swagger. James Nesbitt, ostensibly also a child of the United Kingdom but born to Protestant parents in disaffected Northern Ireland, has brought his own unique brand of intensity to the acting profession for decades. His recent triumph was as a father whose young son is abducted in The Missing, a taut eight-episode BBC series that was co-produced by and broadcast on the Starz pay-cable channel late last year.
I first saw Nesbitt, who turned 50 less than two weeks ago, as an Irish protest organizer trying desperately to keep things peaceful in Bloody Sunday. That award-winning 2002 television film, directed by Paul Greengrass (soon famous for The Bourne Supremacy), depicts a terrible chapter in world history. The British Army killed 13 unarmed demonstrators staging a cilvil rights march in Derry on January 30, 1972. Think Selma with white faces and a brogue. In The Missing, he inhabits the role of Tony Hughes, a Brit on a 2006 vacation in rural France with his wife Emily (the excellent Frances O’Connor, who portrayed an equally conflicted mom in 2001‘s A.I. Artificial Intelligence) and son Oliver (Oliver Hunt). The boy, age six, disappears and the story follows an agonizing search for clues by his distraught parents. They must contend with a duplicitous local police force and various suspicious civilians, including a wealthy developer (Ken Stott) and a convicted but remorseful pedophile (Titus De Voogdt).