Brian DePalma said a director only shows the audience what he wants them to see. For a movie like Missing, a sequel of sorts to Searching, it’s easy to get bogged down by the gimmick of a movie that takes place from text messages, Internet websites, video calls and news stories streaming. It’s called a “screenlife thriller” and as our technology is ever advancing, seeing text messages played on screen is the 21st version of people talking on a phone the way the did in Dog Day Afternoon or All the President’s Men to display tension.
Missing is the ying to the yang that is Searching. Where as that movie involved a parent, played by John Cho, searching for his missing daughter, this is an 18-year-old recent high school graduate, June Allen (Storm Reid), trying to discover what happened to her 40-something mother, Grace (Nia Long). In a home video that begins the movie, we learn that June grew up without a father, James (Tim Griffin). She was told it was cancer and Grace moved to the Los Angeles area afterwards.
Grace, who still hasn’t caught on technology, as she sets up video calls when trying to get Siri to call June, is heading toward Cartegena, Colombia with her boyfriend, Kevin (Ken Leung), who supposedly runs his own business. She Venmos June a few hundred to use just in case of emergencies and family friend, Heather (Amy Landecker), a lawyer, will stop by here and there. But June is hoping to have a lot of fun with her friend, Veena (Megan Suri), and even throws a party at her house.
But when it comes time to pick up Grace and Kevin at LAX about a week later, they’re not on the flight. There’s no phone calls or texts of a change in plans. June knows this is not like her mother so she contacts the hotel only to discover from the staff Grace and Kevin left all their belongings. She works with Heather on contacting the U.S. Embassy. She finds a sympathetic and helpful agent Park (Daniel Henney). She also hires a cheap gig worker, Javier (Joaquim de Almeida) who is also sympathetic and goes above and beyond the $8 an hour to do a little investigating at stores for June. de Almeida often plays criminals and bad guys but here he is perfect in a nice guy role.
What they finally discover I’m not going to tell because it ruins the fun and surprises. Directors Will Merrick and Nick Johnson, who also co-wrote the script with Sev Ohanian and Aneesh Chaganty (who receive “Story by” credit), keep the plot twisting and turning in a way that every new detail is well earned and there’s also things that we might have missed from earlier that make sense later.
While the movie has a final act that seems to move too fast once the final twist is revealed, altogether it flows better than one might thing. And it’s more telling of our society during the digital age and how it’s impossible not to leave a digital footprint. Rather than portray June as the typical Gen Zer stereotype, the filmmakers give her some intelligence and three-dimension. June, along with Javier and Veena, are smart enough to know how to check up on anyone who’s got a smart phone as well. Since Kevin is of southeast Asian ancestry and Grace is black, it’s easier for people to remember them in Colombia.
The movie also can’t take some potshots at the fact that too many people spend time on the Internet that Grace’s disappearance creates too many Internet sleuths looking for their fame even if they are spreading conspiracies and falsehoods. I’m almost wondering if the filmmakers will make a trilogy out of this and having the characters from Searching interact with Missing. Make they will just quit with the duology and quit while they’re ahead before screenlife thrillers go down the rabbit hole the found footage movies did.
What do you think? Please comment.