Directed by: Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick
Premise: A screen activity thriller. An eighteen-year-old (Storm Reid) tries to track down her mother (Nia Long) who has gone missing while vacationing in Columbia with her boyfriend (Ken Leung).
What Works: Missing is a screen activity thriller, meaning that the entire picture consists of the screen activity of its characters as they use computers and cell phones. The film is slickly assembled and the editing impressively transitions between different mediums and windows. The picture visualizes a missing person investigation in the age of social media. June, played by Storm Reid, scours accounts and uses tracking software in an attempt to track down her mother and the film moves along briskly with a minimum of expository narration; the visuals tell the story in an almost associative way. Missing also includes the mergence of news and social media and the way a missing person story can blow up in the culture in ways that are unhelpful and ugly. Storm Reid is quite good in the lead role. She’s convincingly on edge throughout the picture and her interactions with friends and authorities come across authentic.
What Doesn’t: If the premise and style of Missing seem familiar that’s because the 2018 picture Searching used the same conceit and filmmaking techniques. Missing was created by many of the same filmmakers behind Searching; co-directors and writers Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick were editors on Searching and the story of Missing is credited to Sev Ohanian who wrote the 2018 movie and is a producer on the present film. Missing is essentially a remake of Searching by the same people and unfortunately it is done less well. The picture gets off to a good start but the filmmakers have trouble maintaining their credibility and keeping all the narrative plates spinning. June hacks into the social media and banking accounts owned by her mother and her boyfriend. This requires a lot of coincidences and implausibilities especially since the boyfriend is supposed to be a tech expert. The suspicious boyfriend essentially disappears from the story about halfway through even though he is an important part of the film and key to discovering the truth. The story very nearly falls apart in the end. There is a big reveal that changes everything we’ve believed to that point and it’s a stupid twist. Missing also includes cameras in places where it makes no sense to have them as a way to keep up the film’s stylistic conceit.
Bottom Line: Missing is an inferior rehash of Searching. It’s slickly assembled but the film relies on too many coincidences and incredulities.
Episode: #937 (January 29, 2023)