Missing is a loose sequel to 2018’s wildly underrated Searching. Following the same format of only showing the action through a phone or a computer screen, Missing is a taut thriller that rarely lets go but suffers from the confinement of its chosen form.
If you aren’t familiar with Aneesh Chaganty’s superb 2018 thriller Searching, I suggest you fix that right now. At the time of its release, Searching felt revolutionary. The story of a father (John Cho) looking for her missing daughter was told entirely through screens, phones, tablets, and laptops. It perfectly hit the zeitgeist.
It wasn’t the first film to utilise screens as a storytelling method; 2014’s Unfriended was one of the first mainstream films to do that, but Searching perfected the craft. While the film somewhat fell apart in its third act, it was still a taut thriller that managed to turn the weaknesses of its format into strengths.
But worry not. You do not have to have seen Searching to be able to treat yourself to Missing, the belated sequel. The sequel features a completely new cast and a new story, only briefly referencing the events of Searching. Although not directing, Chaganty returns to the franchise as a producer and has a story credit here, still serving as a major creative force for Missing.
Missing feels more like a companion to Searching than a full-on sequel. Eagle-eyed viewers will also notice links to Chaganty’s previous film Run, creating this strange cinematic universe that could one day give Marvel a run for its money.
If Searching told the story of a father looking for his daughter, Missing turns the tables by making the protagonist a teenager looking for her mum.
June (Storm Reid) is sick of her single mum Grace’s hovering, and when Grace is off to Colombia with her new boyfriend, Kevin (Ken Leung), June is relieved and ready to party for a week with her friends.
Except Grace never shows up at the airport. June grows increasingly worried and begins a desperate search from afar, learning new things about Grace and Kevin.
What really elevates Missing is just how well it’s crafted. Every detail, from casting to locations, just seems on point. The frenetic editing works in the film’s favour, amping up the tension, of which there is plenty. Julian Scherle’s relentless score also adds to Missing’s mystery.
Written and directed by Will Merrick and Nick Johnson, Missing is fast-paced but never too chaotic. Events unfold quickly enough to keep our minds off the fact that this is still a pretty formulaic thriller in terms of plotting. There are galore twists, enough to make your head spin, but none feel particularly original or unique.
The film touches upon some relatable fears. Anyone swiping right on a dating app has asked themselves who they’re talking to. There’s also some commentary about reformed prisoners, but Merrick and Johnson don’t follow through on the exciting themes they seem to set up.
From the beginning, Grace’s boyfriend, Kevin, is a sketchy dude, and the audience will inevitably have all kinds of alarms sounding in their heads. The most interesting question Missing touches upon is whether we are projecting our assumptions onto Kevin due to some hidden prejudice we weren’t even aware of. Unfortunately, this question is never fully explored, making Missing a slightly lesser film.
Reid, who will also star in episode 7 of The Last Of Us, makes for a likeable protagonist. June is often frustratingly naive and shows her age, but the story’s emotional beats land well. Reid communicates June’s rising panic and fears well while maintaining her stubborn determination and endless resourcefulness.
The twisty ending will leave you wondering whether what you watched was genius or dumb. While the film uses fast editing to distract us, it can’t wholly escape the rather stiff and constricted storytelling, leaving Missing feeling slightly uninspired and tepid.
Missing is in cinemas on 24 February.