While Missing isn’t necessarily closely related to Searching, the film’s multiple twists and turns will keep the audience on edge from beginning to end.
I said what I said. Missing is better than Searching. Aneesh Changanty’s 2018 thriller was met with massive critical praise when it was released. It’s a very good film, but one that felt too conventional in how the protagonist, David Kim (Jon Cho), started to piece his clues. However, the final twist was unexpected and led the movie in a totally different direction.
With Missing, a standalone sequel set in the same world as Searching, writers/filmmakers Nick Johnson and Will Merrick, adapting a story written by Sev Ohanian and Aneesh Chaganty, decide to go all out on twists, and for the better. As soon as you think Missing will go in one direction, clearly laying out what will occur, out comes an unexpected moment, character, or revelation that thwarts the entire plot astray and keeps the audience members engaged from beginning to end.
Interestingly enough, the movie quasi-starts in the same way as Searching, with a family member losing a loved one to cancer. In this case, it’s June (Storm Reid), who loses her father (Tim Griffin) to a brain tumor at an early age. Her mother, Grace (Nia Long), has decided to move away and start a new life in Los Angeles, where she meets Kevin Lin (Ken Leung) and fall in love with him. As the years pass, June grows more distant to her mother, and the two have a fairly heated relationship as she leaves for Columbia with Kim. After multiple parties are thrown in her mother’s absence, June almost forgets to pick her up from the airport… but she never comes back. She starts to get increasingly worried after she learns that Kevin was a convicted felon who used to con middle-aged women for money.
That’s all I’m going to say. Once the main characters pop up, it’s quite easy to figure out where the movie is going… until it isn’t. As soon as you’re comfortable predicting the end, the first (of many) curveball gets thrown at you and your only reflex is to lean closer to the screen, never knowing which direction the movie will take. It’s only until the film’s last act that all is revealed, and boy, does it hit harder than possibly imagined. Of course, it’s all in the main character’s face all along, but she doesn’t realize it until it’s too late.
Part of the thrill of watching a movie like this is trying to figure out how the pieces of the puzzle will all come together. And it certainly wouldn’t have worked without great performances at the front and center. Storm Reid doesn’t possess the same leading qualities as Jon Cho, but she still gives a gripping portrayal of June from beginning to end, especially during the latter half of the film where she learns the truth. She’s joined by a revolving door of supporting characters, with Joaquim de Almeida being a notable highlight as Javi, a person June hires to track down the last whereabouts of her mom and Kevin.
At some point, Missing may make you suspect every supporting character. When more is revealed, you can’t trust anybody, especially what the internet lays out through insane theories about June’s her mother’s disappearance. One of the most poignant moments in the movie is how Merrick and Johnson comment on our social media-driven era pushing further into echo chambers, where people will only hear what they want to hear to confirm their preconceived bias. If they thought the kidnapping was staged, the Twitter (or, in this case, TikTok) algorithm would only bring them “news” from users about the “staged” kidnapping, which has dangerous possibilities to lead the user inside an echo chamber. It isn’t explored with as much depth as it should’ve been, but it raises an interesting question which I hope will make audiences aware of how they consume information on social media, and if their biases (or ideologies) are feeding an algorithm to get them what they want. I’ll leave it at that…
I’m a couple of movies into 2023, and, so far, Missing is the first true great picture of the year. As soon as its first twist occurs, it pulls you into its intricacies much faster than I would’ve imagined and moves at a breakneck pace, with each revelation hitting us into a deeper emotional spectrum. Its computer-driven framing device works surprisingly well, with intricate transitions from editors Austin Keeling and Arielle Zarkovski, and Julian Scherle’s intense, piano-driven score is already one I will be listening to for a long time. If you liked Searching, you are going to love Missing. As soon as it starts, there’s no going back.
Missing is now showing in US theaters. The film will be released in the UK and more countries on February 24, 2023.