MISSING: 3 ½ STARS. “an exciting format, at once familiar and yet completely new.”
In “Missing,” a new high tech missing person thriller now playing in theatres, the main character turns to her computer server when the police fail to protect and serve.
A sorta-kinda sequel to the 2018 high-tech missing person movie “Searching” starring John Cho, “Missing” tells its story through a series of browser windows, on a screen or through a computer, security or surveillance camera.
Storm Reid is June Allen, a typical Los Angeles teen tethered to her phone, screens and social media. When her mother Grace (Nia Long) and newish boyfriend (Ken Leung) jet off for some alone time in Colombia, June is put in charge. But just because Grace will be basking in the sun almost 4000 kilometers away, doesn’t mean she won’t be keeping a digital eye on her daughter. “Keep your location on the entire time I’m away,” she instructs the teen.
As soon as the plane lifts off June looks up articles on-line like “How to Throw a Rager… On a Budget” like any teenager left in charge would do, but when Grace goes incommunicado, June becomes concerned. Calls to her mother’s hotel don’t provide any comfort.
“I’m calling about a guest you had,” she says. “Does anyone speak English?”
“I’m sorry,” comes the reply.
With no information forthcoming she contacts the F.B.I. who inform her they have no jurisdiction to investigate in Columbia. “The best thing you can do is wait by your phone,” says Agent Park (Daniel Henney).
But why should June wait by the phone when she has an arsenal of the latest technology at her fingertips? Doing a deep dive, she looks for clues as a kind of digital Dick Tracy, and finds out more about her mother’s past than she bargained for.
“Missing” is almost as anxiety inducing as the three dots that come up when you’re waiting for someone to text you back.
Because this is a technological thriller, the usual visual genre tricks don’t apply. There are no darkly lit alley ways, shadowy corners or smoke-shrouded backrooms.
Instead, the screen is filled with dialogue boxes, blown-out YouTube videos, FaceTime pop-ups and Google search bars. The information gathering aspect of the story may look like something that would confuse and confound Philip Marlowe, but the procedural is the same as other, classic Private Eye movies. One bit of information leads to another, and June pieces the mystery together with the panache of a seasoned detective.
There are one or two obvious plot holes that defy logic, but mostly the techno presentation conveys both the backstory and the procedural aspects of the plot in an effective and inventive way.
Providing the all-important human connection is Reid, who, as June, is a resourceful heroine who takes matters into her own hand. Best known as Rue’s younger sister on the HBO drama series “Euphoria,” she brings a daughter’s concern to the tale that warms up the movie’s overwhelming, cool techno vibe.
Whether the screenshot style of “Missing” will one day be regarded with the same side eye as found footage movies are today remains to be seen, but in the here and now, it is an exciting format, at once familiar and yet completely new.