REVIEW: Missing, a detective story told through entirely screens

By James Mackin

For many of us, our worst fear is when a member of our family goes missing. If it does happen, it can be hard to sit still and wait for the police to do their job. With all the tools we have at our disposal now, it’s easy for for us to try to retrace people’s steps, discover what they’re doing, and attempt to find them. If this sounds like a movie you already saw, you’re probably thinking of Searching. And if you liked that film, did you know there’s a sequel?

Missing 2

Storm Reid in Missing, courtesy of Sony Pictures.

Missing is a standalone sequel to the 2018 film starring John Cho. In that, he played a father using his computer to search for his missing daughter. Missing is about an inverse, a teenage daughter using her phone and computer to search for her missing mother. What complicates the situation in this new film is that June (played by Storm Reid from a Wrinkle in Time and Euphoria) is in Los Angeles, looking for her mother (played by Nia Long from Love Jones) in Cartagena, Colombia.

June’s mother took a trip there with her new boyfriend (played by Ken Leung from Industry), and at first it seems like the two had a lovely trip together based on the many photos he sends June. But when neither of them arrive at the airport, and the late minutes turn into hours, then days, June begins to sleuth around online to discover exactly what could’ve happened.

While the first film is almost entirely confined to computer screens, video calls and news reports, Missing earns its claim as a rightful sequel by adding in things like Instagram, Snapchat, and Whatsapp. It also ups the ante by going international. While our main character is confined entirely to her screens, she needs to depend on the assistance of others (who may or may not have their own agendas) in this investigation. And much like Searching, this film makes the viewer feel like a sleuth of their own in the best way.

When watching this film, it does feel almost voyeuristic for the viewer. You see the private emails of people, the things they want hidden because they show us who they truly are. And like a good whodunit, this film lays out all the puzzle pieces fairly early on. All we need to do is connect the dots, and follow along the journey with the protagonist. The film never breaks from this computer screen style, showing us June’s discoveries of the mystery in tandem with ours. What’s exciting about this style is its limitations, and what can’t be shown. If a character walks away from their screen, we don’t see where they go unless there’s another screen in that area that shows them.

What can make or break a film like this is the ability of its lead star. Can they successfully hold up an entire film around them when most of the work is themselves looking directly into a webcam? And just like John Cho did in the first one, Storm Reid does a fantastic job in this role. At such a young age, she seems well suited to showcase the dive into the online rabbit hole. While she does have some experience leading a film before, it’s clear that even with minimal avenues of performance to go down she can hold her own. Expect to see her career explode in the coming years, as Reid’s star will only get bigger and bigger.

Coming out in January, this film came out a time where it seems like studios often dump their films because they’re not exactly sure what to do with them. The success of M3GAN (which already has a sequel confirmed) shows that with proper marketing, January can be an exciting time for films. This is a film that would benefit from innovative marketing. It’s also a film that many people may prefer to watch on a computer screen as opposed to a cinema screen. But no matter which type of screen you watch it on, it’s a hell of a fun ride. This film gets a 3/5.

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