REVIEW: ‘Missing’ (2023) Criticises Society’s Obsession With True Crime

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Will Merrick and Nick Johnson’s feature directorial debuts is the newest screenlife thriller, Missing (the standalone sequel to Aneesh Chaganty’s 2018 Searching). Missing follows the story of June Allen (Storm Reid), taking place just after her mother, Grace (Nia Long), has gone on a trip to Colombia with boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung). June is left alone for Father’s Day weekend, a day that only serves as an emotionally charged reminder of her deceased dad James (Tim Griffin), who died of a brain tumor when she was a child. When June goes to the airport to pick up Grace and Kevin, she’s soon stranded and discovers they are never going to arrive. After law enforcement are unable to make any headway in solving the mysterious disappearance, June decides to take matters into her own hands and begin an investigation of her own. This is aided by Javi (Joaquim de Almeida), a gig worker who she hires, her friend Veena (Megan Suri), and Grace’s friend Heather (Amy Landecker).

A very satisfying aspect of the screenlife (computer screen film) medium is that it provides a way to get expositional information across in an efficient and creative manner. The most pertinent information is always prominently shown, yet there’s a wealth of easter eggs added in the background. Leaving these fun breadcrumbs behind is part of what makes future rewatches all the more enjoyable. Much like its predecessor, Missing utilizes social media in a way that’s, for the most part, realistic, unlike a lot of recent films and television shows that hyperbolize the use of social media by teenagers solely as a way to criticize it. Although the Internet can be an isolating place, it also provides a space to build real connections with people from across the world. This is conveyed via June and Javi, a relationship that just adds another layer of sincerity to the story. But this film doesn’t shy away from the fact that social media is also used to sensationalize tragedy. Where YouTube played a part in Searching, in this film, apps such as TikTok give a platform for people to objectify others, viewing their lives as a puzzle needing to be solved, and profiting off of their suffering. Missing is aware of all the positive and negative aspects of this and understands that the best way to get this message across is to be true to the way these tools are actually used every day, and the rest speaks for itself. 

protagonist and friend look intrigued and nervous looking at a laptop.
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

Though Searching and Missing are standalone films it’s difficult not to compare the two, and as a whole, Missing is the weaker installment. Since digital tools have continued to evolve since the first film, the narrative has expanded alongside this, meaning there are some very clever aspects in this story that can only exist because of the advances made in technology. But this bigger scope also caused the plot to become bloated, whereas Searching was a much sharper and airtight story. The plot twists, especially in the second half, are sometimes more cartoonish than shocking, but the tension remains because Reid’s skillful and moving performance keeps viewers engaged throughout. Wanting to see June succeed and watching events unfold through a computer screen rather than placing them firmly in the action makes the feeling of helplessness even worse. Ending with a suckerpunch that makes the audience just as culpable as the characters they’re meant to condemn, Missing is a rollercoaster ride, and despite some hiccups, it’s another great installment to the genre and a damn good time.

Director: Will Merrick, Nick Johnson
Writers: Will Merrick, Nick Johnson
Story: Sev Ohanian, Aneesh Chaganty
Producers: Natalie Qasabian, Sev Ohanian, Aneesh Chaganty
Cast: Storm Reid, Nia Long, Tim Griffin, Ken Leung, Amy Landecker, Megan Suri, Daniel Henney, Joaquim de Almeida
Release Date: January 19, 2023