Four years after David Kim used technology to find his missing daughter in Searching, audiences are getting a new mystery thriller set entirely on phone, computer, and smartwatch screens. Missing is written and directed by Nick Johnson and Will Merrick in their feature directorial debut after previously serving as editors on Searching. If you were a fan of the twisty, unpredictable nature of the tech-savvy original film, get ready for even more of that with this film, which tells a fresh, exciting mystery that will make your jaw drop.
This stand-alone sequel begins with a similar setup to the original, beginning with home videos of a toddler with her parents before one of them succumbs to cancer. The main events occur in a single-parent household, told through screens belonging to our protagonist, June Allen (Storm Reid). She’s a rebellious teenage girl whose mother, Grace (Nia Long), travels to Colombia with her boyfriend, Kevin (Ken Leung). With the house to herself and a week of partying later, June waits at the airport for her mother, who never shows up. With her mother gone in a country thousands of miles away, June uses the internet to investigate what happened to her.
With a film as fresh as Searching was in 2018, replicating that type of success was no easy task. A movie like Missing could have felt like a retread of the original with nothing new to offer. However, this movie works in a way that allows it to rival its predecessor. This is a surprising, unrelenting movie that pulls no punches. Once Johnson and Merrick set up the mystery surrounding a mother who disappeared, we are locked in for a classic, well-told story that will keep you guessing from the first minute to the last.
Engaging and compelling in all the best ways, Missing effectively uses its computer screen medium to tell a thrilling mystery that unfolds in unexpected ways. You figure out every revelation with June in real-time, and as the twists and turns continue throughout the film, you find yourself second-guessing your perceptions of every character. Each time a new suspect is introduced, you wonder whether they are the culprit, a red herring, or a red herring who will be revealed to be the culprit later on. With this narrative, you never know who you can and can’t trust, creating an experience that will pull you to the edge of your seat, wondering what happens next.
The film’s structure remains very similar to the first film. With a premise that involves a missing person and a family member using technology to find them, Missing can sometimes recycle story beats from the original. However, given that we’re following new characters and story beats that will have you consistently reevaluating the narrative, you are in for a well-constructed story that maximizes its use of suspense in all the right moments. Reid’s performance anchors this film with emotional moments and a fierce determination that keeps you watching.
Everything builds up to an unexpectedly terrifying finale. The final act of Searching is primarily emotional, while the last 30 minutes of this film put June in physical danger. Although the movie doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor, it comes closer than anyone could have imagined, with excellent performances, tension, and an editing process that must have been a nightmare to achieve. But it was no longer a concern for Johnson and Merrick, whose promotions from editors to writer/directors pay off in leagues.
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