In 2018, there was a movie called Searching, about a father using the technology at his disposal to assist the police in looking for his missing teenage daughter. It is a tremendously effective thriller that shows its audience everything via his computer or phone, a gimmick that could’ve been seriously limiting for dramatic purposes. Instead, it used its limitations to generate a large amount of suspense in an entertainingly twisty mystery. Now, the same team who brought that to the screen are back with Missing, another mystery seen almost exclusively through the computer or phone of its protagonist.
June is an eighteen-year-old who was raised by her mother after the passing of her father twelve-years earlier. When June’s mom goes to Colombia with her boyfriend and they are not on their return flight, June gets scared and takes to the internet to look for answers.
It is clear that, when used cleverly, this approach can definitely add tension to a story. A character is mostly in one location by themselves while attempting to uncover something potentially awful that happened to someone they love. Yet they have the world at their fingertips due to the way we are all now connected by technology. Plus, it can be kind of terrifying how easy it is to find information on-line. It is impressive how something as simple as figuring out an email password can be so suspenseful. These movies also don’t waste any time. Every Google search or trip through social media ends somewhere telling.
When Missing (104 minutes, without the end credits) focuses on that idea, it works. It isn’t nearly as exciting as Searching. However, it would have to have been pretty inventive to top it since viewers are now familiar with the concept. The first half, as the main character does whatever she can think of to find clues, is entertaining thanks to its fast pace, believable twists and smart heroine. The second half, leaning on a series of revelations and an action-heavy climax, is not as fun. Even still, it is good enough for what it is that it makes me wonder if there is more gas left in this tank for a third go round. Probably not.
The basics are very similar to Searching, though that one followed a desperate father and this one is a desperate daughter. Both of them are surprisingly resourceful and skilled at piecing together clues. They would have to be or these movies would be quite boring. The plot specifics are different, but the outlines are the same. After all, there is only so much you can do with “someone’s spouse/child/parent has gone missing and they have to use their computer to discover the truth.”
Missing sets itself apart from its predecessor by tilting toward action-thriller. Unfortunately, that forces the filmmakers to cheat a bit as far as how viewers see events. That was annoying and a few of the secrets flirt too much with contrivance. Despite that, writers/directors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick (who were editors on Searching) have enough tricks up their sleeves to make what is essentially a retread of a limited concept more compelling than I expected coming in. Missing may not be fully original, but its pacing and occasionally ingenious use of websites/apps we take for granted make for an oddly thoughtful look at how we utilize technological advancements, as well as a decently-crafted thriller.
3¼ out of 4
Storm Reid as June
Joaquim de Almeida as Javi
Nia Long as Grace
Ken Leung as Kevin
Amy Landecker as Heather
Megan Suri as Veena
Written and Directed by Nick Johnson and Will Merrick