Missing (2023) Review!!

Synopsis – After her mother goes missing, a young woman tries to find her from home, using tools available to her online.

My Take – With crime stories skyrocketing in popularity in recent times, it is unsurprising that we get to see another installment of the so-called screen-life thrillers, pioneered by Timur Bekmambetov, who also acts as an executive producer here.

While this concept, first popularized with the 2014 horror Unfriended, it was the Aneesh Chaganty directed Searching (2018) that actually took the world by storm as it kept the action confined to a computer screens: the desktop, browsers, the device’s built-in camera, among other things, while delivering an excellent yet compact story.

Acting as a standalone sequel, here, Searching editors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick, in their directorial debut, manage to deliver yet another success story with the right amount of emotion, twists, and thrill. Combined with good writing and performances, the film establishes that the novelty of a thriller unfolding on computer screens has not worn out yet. With vertigo-inducing number of twists and turns ensuring there’s not even a single second of boredom in its 111 minute run time.

Sure, as far as sequels go, it repeats a lot of the same ideas that its predecessor did to diminishing results, but the core is still solid as well as the concept and if you saw this film in isolation from the first film you’ll probably enjoy it even more.

Yes, they overshadow some of the more socio-critical elements and stretch credibility at times, yet it it’s still a blast, even if it’s questionable whether it all comes together thematically.

With its well-crafted script, impressive direction, and standout performance from Storm Reid, the film is sure to satisfy audiences looking for a suspenseful, armrest-grabbing experience. The screen life style of storytelling remains clever and endlessly entertaining, and the film proves that a good story can stand on its own irrespective of the set up.

The story follows June (Storm Reid), a high school student, who has lived with the trauma of losing her father (Tim Griffin) to brain tumor since she was a child. A result of which she and her mother Grace (Nia Long) don’t really get along. She even gets to be a rebellious teenager when Grace and her current boyfriend, Kevin (Ken Leung) leave for a week-long vacation to Colombia, allowing her to throw a house party with her best friend, Veena (Megan Suri).

However, when time comes for June to pick them up at the airport, she is left dismayed as the two never show up. Days go by and with no news whatsoever about where they are and what happened to them, June begins to put her computer skills to use and enlists the help of Javier (Joaquim de Almeida), a helpful gig worker in Columbia, and Agent Park (Daniel Henney), an FBI agent, to figure out what happened to them. But the more she looks into it though, mystery after mystery about her mother and Kevin begin to appear which causes her to question everything she knew about them.

Like any good mystery, the film is fundamentally a puzzle that we get to see pieced together, and it’s an incredibly well-crafted puzzle. The story organically unfolds to slowly reveal more pertinent information to the viewer, coupled with fast-paced editing and a rapid, heart-racing soundtrack, the running time flies by.

And this breakneck speed of the film only adds to the intensity, as you really begin to feel the struggle of having to find who is missing before it’s too late. Though their worlds are different, Searching and this one exude similar vibes. They even follow a similar structure to some extent. This gives the audience a sense of familiarity without being repetitive.

Here, writers Aneesh Chaganty (who directed and co-wrote Searching) and Sev Ohanian (Run) introduce enough twists and turns to keep the audience engaged. I agree, at times, the multiple twists become a problem especially as the film introduces a disturbing narrative element in its final twenty or so minutes that hasn’t been hinted at before and quickly revs that story up in a way that’s a bit upsetting.

Yet, it helps that the film is ridiculously well-edited. Every frame stays on screen or stays zoomed in just long enough, and the editors came up with some really visually stunning, creative transitions between scenes that make use of the distinct desktop-screen format.

Directors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick also makes great use of framing as notes on June’s computer, old photos, live feeds, and more sit next to each other perfectly in several shots allowing the audience to quite literally connect the different pieces of information on screen.

Performance wise, Storm Reid does a solid job. The script demands plenty from her, yet she manages to hold her own, often able to dig deep for the emotionally rich scenes, which tend to come regularly in a film depicting a voracious girl in a race against time to find her missing mother. It’s no easy task to be front and center for so much of the film, with her voice driving many scenes. But Reid absolutely knocks it out of the park.

In supporting roles, Joaquim de Almeida and Megan Suri add enough emotional significance, while in other roles, Nia Long, Ken Leung, Daniel Henney, Amy Landecker and Tim Griffin are effective. On the whole, ‘Missing’ is a gripping and well-crafted effective thriller that marks yet another success story for the screenlife genre of visual storytelling.

Directed – ,

Starring – Storm Reid, Nia Long, Daniel Henney

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 111 minutes

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