Year:  2023

Director:  Nicholas D. Johnson, Will Merrick

Rated:  M

Release:  February 23, 2023

Distributor: Sony

Running time: 111 minutes

Worth: $15.00
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Storm Reid, Ken Leung, Nia Long, Joaquim de Almeida, Tim Griffin, Amy Landecker, Daniel Henney, Megan Suri

… a decent techno driven thriller that moves at a breakneck pace ...

In 2018, Aneesh Chaganty’s Searching was surprise hit. Using only screens to tell the story of a man (the excellent John Cho) trying to find his daughter, it not only utilised the then unique framing concept to create an effective thriller, but also commented on technology and how we often tell more to a computer or app than we do to the people closest to us.

Missing is directed by Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick, who were the editors on Searching. The film exists in the Searching universe (a nod to Searching turns up in a Netflix true-crime anthology) but it is a standalone film – part of what appears to be a planned anthology. Whereas Searching was about Gen X trying to reckon with tech, Missing centres on tech savvy Gen Z.

June Allen (Storm Reid) is eighteen and annoyed with her over-protective mother, Grace (Nia Long), who has started dating someone many years after June’s father, James (Tim Griffin) passed away. Kevin Lin (Ken Leung), the new man in Grace’s life, is not someone June is even vaguely interested in. When Grace and Kevin decide to go away for a holiday in Colombia, June is excited that she will get to throw a massive alcohol-soaked party at home.

In an era where so many of us live a “screen life”, June’s ability to multitask on her computer is realistic (although the directors do squeeze time in places to make June’s tech native abilities seem somewhat more prodigious than they would reasonably be).

June has her party, which is captured on many phones and Instagram profiles. Unwisely, she decided to have it the night before she was due to pick up Grace and Kevin from LAX. In a joke video that she records when greeting her mother, we see that neither Grace nor Kevin arrive. June springs into action with the help of her mother’s friend, attorney Heather (Amy Landecker) and the extremely limited assistance of FBI Agent Park (Daniel Henney), who has no jurisdiction in Colombia.

As June “hacks” her way through Kevin’s email and profiles, she soon finds his dating profile that shows videos of him talking to Grace, who is vulnerable, funny, and worried about the distance between herself and her June-bug.

The ever-resourceful June hires Javi (Joaquim de Almeida) through an Airtasker-like service in Colombia. Javi is good natured and paternal with June, he’s also a vital asset in her search in a country that she knows little about. As the narrative progresses and Grace’s kidnapping becomes public, the film comments about the internet’s relentless need to rubber-neck tragedies, with YouTubers and TikTok channels dissecting every part of the case, including the mystery of who Grace is.

Johnson and Merrick stick with the rules established in Searching, but they bend them more than once to include basically anything that appears on a screen – news footage, public camera footage, smartwatch footage, or even Ring home security footage. The digital trickery can become wearisome, but there is a solid thriller underneath it, which has a lot to say about the tenuous notion of privacy in the contemporary world.

A third act that defies believability is the weakest aspect of the film. Throughout Missing, we are served up a plethora of red herrings that eventually mash into a finale that is deeply silly (although chilling in its implications).

What we see of Nia Long is appealing and nuanced, but because she is the one who is missing, we don’t see quite enough of her. Almost everything rests on Storm Reid’s shoulders and she carries the film adequately, if not particularly authentically.

Missing is best experienced by leaning into its frenzied pace and not thinking too hard about how everything adds up (pull a couple of threads and the whole plot just unravels). The film is tense, clever and ridiculous. While Missing doesn’t have the novelty of Searching, it is still a decent techno driven thriller that moves at a breakneck pace and speaks to just how much of our lives we deliberately or incidentally live with cameras, apps, and online interactions documenting our every move.