2023, R, 106 min. Directed by Nicholas D. Johnson, Will Merrick. Starring Storm Reid, Joaquim de Almeida, Ken Leung, Amy Landecker, Daniel Henney, Nia Long, Megan Suri, Tim Griffin.
REVIEWED By Trace Sauveur, Fri., Jan. 20, 2023
Sometimes you just need a movie like Missing to kick your feet up with and enjoy its simple pleasures. Much like the preceding film in this "screen reality" techno-thriller anthology series, Searching, Missing takes its airport novel aspirations and filters them through the perspective of FaceTime, text messages, Ring doorbell cameras – anything and everything you’ve come to learn about the language of computers and cellphones. It makes, once again, for what I would describe as perfectly entertaining trash.
While Searching saw a distressed father looking for his daughter, Missing flips the script: We now follow daughter June (Reid) searching for her absent mother, Grace (Long), after she fails to arrive back from her trip to Colombia with her new boyfriend, Kevin (Leung). A whole slew of characters come in and out of June's desktop screen claiming to help, including FBI agent Park (Henney) and local Colombian resident Javi (Almeida), who becomes a close ally after June hires him via a TaskRabbit-esque site. But everyone is a suspect in this sort of thing, and you’re soon given reason to raise an eyebrow at anyone who claims to be a friend.
Missing is defined by a desire to surprise, with an almost preposterous amount of twists and turns. Some will claim it gets too convoluted, or that it’s too ridiculous. To that, I say: Sure, but what do you come to this movie for if not exactly that? It’s patently ludicrous, but also written and directed with a captivating sense of progression and gradual escalation that’s largely lifted by the format of the story. How lame this film would be if made with traditional methods and aesthetics is absolutely glaring. But as a desktop thriller, the filmmakers are able to find new, clever methods to communicate components of characters or new plot reveals that serve beats that could otherwise fall flat. It has some similar hang-ups to its cousin, the found footage movie, but just let go of those quibbles and your life will be better. Would someone really have their FaceTime running this often so that we can conveniently see what’s happening away from the screen? Don’t worry about it.
This filmmaking team had already proven themselves adept at navigating their world purely by way of screens, and they once again impress by demonstrating just how compelling it can be. Searching writer/director Aneesh Chaganty and co-writer Sev Ohanian move into producer roles, while editors Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick take up script and directing duties for this go-around. They approach this plainly silly material with the same amount of confidence and chutzpah as before, enough to convince you the inherent material is actually good.
Of course, that’s not necessarily true and though the script does have its fair share of satisfying, schlocky shocks, by the ultimate conclusion it still ends up feeling like something is indeed … missing. Part of the issue may be that this film doesn’t have its John Cho, a performer with real charisma and presence to give this a bit more legitimacy. This isn’t to say anyone here is bad, and Reid helps to sell the material with a surprising sense of plausibility, but maybe not affording it much authority.
Still, it's difficult not to delight in Missing’s harebrained, frivolous plots and schemes. It is the ultimate example of knowing what you’re going to get and just being OK with that. It’s not a movie for you to turn off your brain, but rather, a movie to engage with the most primal parts of possessing a fundamental need for cheap entertainment.