clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

‘Missing’ review: there’s still a suspenseful mystery to be told inside the sea of digital apps

The spiritual successor to 2018’s ‘Searching,’ provides true crime commentary and broadens its scope for its new tale.

Sony Pictures

Five years might as well be a lifetime in the technology cycle. With the onset of the pandemic, tools like Zoom and FaceTime have become even more prominent in our daily lives – even to the point of mental exhaustion and eye strain. The digital space has merged into a storytelling medium where films like Unfriended, Host, and Profile have shown they can utilize daily electronic tools creatively to deliver intense, intriguing, and sometimes comical stories. 2018’s Searching contained a father frantically searching for his missing daughter. Along with twists and turns within that narrative, the story's heart plays on not knowing a family member the way you thought. The film conveyed an emotional center through webcams, newscasts, and surveillance footage.

Missing, a spiritual successor to Searching, has even more to play around with – given the explosion of true crime documentaries and commentary channels from talking heads on YouTube. Directors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick play into those notions while striving to build something fresh (as technology tries to do). June (Storm Reid) is a teenager with an uneasy relationship with her mother, Grace (Nia Long). Some of it could be chalked up to a specific type of overprotectiveness.

However, there’s a reason for this – June’s father, Angel (Michael Segovia), passed away when she was young. Some time has passed, and now Grace is dating another man named Kevin (Ken Leung). They both decide to go on a vacation to Columbia (unfortunately, during Father's Day weekend). While there’s a cold exchange and insistence that Grace’s lawyer friend Heather (Amy Landecker) check in on her, the mice will play when the cat is away. Through a quick montage of Instagram, Apple messages, and Snapchat, Grace and her friend Veena (Megan Suri) plan a week full of parties. (You would, too!) However, when Grace goes to pick her mother and Kevin up from the airport, nobody shows up. Can’t get in touch with them through calls, and they seemingly left all their belongings at their hotel.

What the hell is going on, exactly? Is Kevin who he says he is? Johnson, Merrick, Sev Ohanian, and Aneesh Chaganty add some different parameters June’s character has to work through. Since this is in another country, there’s a language barrier she has to overcome. This implores June to go into a Spanish-Taskrabbit equivalent to hire a man named Javier (Joaquim de Almeida), who is a bit technically challenged, but well-intentioned to help her. The U.S. Columbian embassy gets involved by way of F.B.I. agent Agent Elijah Park (Daniel Henney), but there are some jurisdiction questions with that.

Missing has June do a lot of detective work with some commentary on how much information is available in our digital footprint. The world of password recovery, VPNs, and anonymous chat apps gives another sense of urgency to this plot. Perhaps, it’s almost absurd and sobering what June can find with a password recovery form and Gmail history. The fact that this story happens throughout different countries gives the acting and anxiety another level. This film also speaks to the culture in which streaming networks such as Netflix are ready to pounce on any sense of tragedy to monetize it. It’s both a funny and sad observation the film provides that widens the perspective off the screen.

Notability, most of this film’s narrative is told through mediums you would expect and may even take a little longer to wrap up the mystery's conclusion. However, when you’re in it, Missing takes you for a familiar, but thrilling ride. Within the sleuthing is a story of regret – well, a reminder that with all the connection pieces at our disposal, nothing beats telling a loved one they matter. While that theme carries over from Searching, Reid is able to convey that sense of regret tracking down her only remaining parent.

Given how the world has changed in totality, I’m not sure how many times this settling can be updated. After all, screens are a mainstay of everything we do. It also feels that the film goes for a bombastic ending to divert expectations. With that being said, Missing seems to tap into two things. Privacy in this age is pretty much moot, and what you could discover is equally as terrifying.