MISSING is directed by Nick Johnson and Will Merrick; it’s their directorial debuts. The film stars Storm Reid, Joaquim de Almeida, Ken Leung, Amy Landecker, Daniel Henney, and Nia Long. It’s a standalone sequel to the 2018 film SEARCHING.
June Allen is a teenage girl overjoyed that her mother is going on a vacation out of the country with her new boyfriend, since it means she gets the house to herself. That is, when her mother’s lawyer friend isn’t peeking in on her. When the twosome head out on their getaway, June parties it up, but when she goes to the airport to pick them up a few days later, they’re nowhere to be found. Using her devices and the people she knows, June begins digging for clues as to what might have happened. Was there a simple misunderstanding, or are the bigger elements at play here?
This “screen thriller” thing really seems to be taking off. In other words, movies that tell an entire story from “screens.” Be it a computer screen, cell phone video, public camera, surveillance footage, smart watches, or whatever else you can think of. It’s a strange gimmick, but it works surprisingly well and certainly fits in well with the tech-driven world we live in today. From horror thrillers to more grounded and realistic drama, we’ve seen many attempts at this in the last few years.
And honestly, if all the movies that attempt it are as good as MISSING, I’m perfectly fine with that! January is often a dumping ground for movies studios have no faith in or didn’t want to release amid the holiday blockbuster season, but this particular January has been off to a surprisingly strong start. MISSING is a relatable dramatic tale with a gritty, disturbing, and relatable premise, yet despite its reliance on technology to tell the story, it’s surprisingly human, never losing sight of the drama its human characters take. Even attempts at humor and lightening the mood never feel out of place, which is truly fantastic for a release such as this.
Storm Reid has been appearing in films for many years now; I first discovered who she was when she appeared in the 2018 film adaptation of A WRINKLE IN TIME; essentially I was not a fan of that film but did admire Ms. Reid’s work, and she seems to get better in every single film in which she appears. Her work is MISSING is the culmination of everything she’s worked so hard for in recent years, truly letting her show off her range, whether she’s constantly annoyed by her mother or in sheer terror knowing she may not see her again. This is one young lady to pay attention to, with her career likely to be on the rise in the years to come.
A strong supporting cast further adds to the overall package, including Ken Leung as the new boyfriend of June’s mother, Nia Long as the mother, and in what I found to be the most entertaining character in the movie, Joaquim de Almeida as a handyman of sorts who plays arguably the most interest part in June’s research to find out what happened to her mother. Everyone plays the part perfectly that they were hired for, and the final product shows this throughout.
The narrative structure and pacing work surprisingly well. Yes, the story is told with a gimmick, but it’s a damned reliable gimmick that’s surprisingly relatable. We use phones, computers, and cameras every day. I’m not sure who the originator of this kind of storytelling is, but the cast and crew of MISSING use it quite well. The film is just the right length; it never feels like it’s dragging, but the quest for the solution doesn’t feel rushed either. Understandably, there are a few “red herrings” along the way, and just when you think you’ve figured it out, you’ll be surprised by how many twists and turns this tale takes! Audiences will be able to relate to the story of MISSING since it involves tech used in everyday life.
The strengths outweigh the weaknesses, and the only real issues I had with the movie were the presence of a few too many characters and subplots; not everyone quite gets the attention they deserve. Likewise, the biggest twist of the story, hard-hitting and effective as it may be, is far from original. I guarantee you that you’ve seen at least one other movie that has used this twist before.
Minor flaws aside, MISSING is a fantastic tech thriller with a career-defining performance from Storm Reid. The supporting cast is great, the storytelling gimmick works well, and the narrative structure and pacing never falter! A fantastic film that comes highly recommended.