Missing (2023) ☆☆☆(3/4): Another desperate online searching

“Missing”, a standalone sequel to “Searching” (2018), is a solid thriller flick mainly revolving around another desperate online searching. Although it is not exactly fresh as mostly sticking to the storytelling format of the previous film, the movie steadily engages us while doling out one surprise plot turn after another at least, and I was entertained enough by how effectively it handles its familiar genre elements.

In the beginning, the movie quickly sets up the relationship between an adolescent high school girl named June (Storm Reid) and her single mother Grace (Nia Long). As shown from the prologue scene starting with a brief home video clip shot in 2008, Grace had to leave everything along with her little daughter after something bad occurred in their life at that time, and she and June have been living together in a suburban area of California since then, but they are not exactly close to each other at present. When Grace is going to have a little vacation in Colombia along with her boyfriend, June is excited mainly because she can have a wild weekend party along with her friends during her mother’s brief absence, and she is already preparing for that with her best friend even though her mother has not left yet.

After Grace leaves along with her boyfriend, everything seems to be going fine for both of them on the surface. Once she takes care of a friend of her mother who is supposed to check up her at times, June and her friends have a big party at her house as planned, and, according to several photographs sent to her from her mother’s boyfriend, he and her mother seem to be really enjoying their private time together. While she goes a bit too far with having a fun with her friends, June manages to get the resulting mess cleaned up before her mother’s return, and we soon see her eagerly waiting for her mother at the LA International Airport.

However, her mother does not come, and June naturally becomes quite worried as hours go by without any call from her mother. When she later calls a local hotel where Grace and her boyfriend stayed, it becomes quite possible that her mother is kidnapped, and June naturally tries to get any help for finding where her mother is now. With some help from her mother’s aforementioned friend, she quickly submits the report on her mother’s missing to FBI. When FBI does not seem to help much, she comes to recruit some local guy via one popular online service, and this guy is willing to help her as much as possible, though he is not exactly qualified for his latest job.

Like its predecessor, the movie unfolds its story mostly inside one laptop computer monitor, and it is still fun (and a bit disturbing) to observe how much of our current daily life can be recorded or monitored on the Internet these days. Once she gets the password to a Google account belonging to her mother’s boyfriend, June discovers lots of unexpected stuffs as checking most of his online activities, and that certainly makes her suspect this guy more, who is also gone missing for no apparent reason just like her mother.

Furthermore, it looks like there is something her mother has not told her yet, and that surely leads to June questioning more of her relationship with her mother. As reminded more that there has always been some distance between them especially after June entered adolescence, she is not so sure about whether she knows who her mother really is.

Although the story becomes rather preposterous during its second half due to a series of big twists to come (Is this a spoiler?), directors Will Merrick and Nick Johnson, who developed the screenplay from the story written by co-producers Sev Ohanian and Aneesh Chaganty (They previously wrote the screenplay of “Searching” while co-producing and directing it, respectively, by the way), keeps things rolling to the end under their competent direction. I must say that there are several moments which will definitely test your ability of suspending your disbelief, but the movie ably dials up and down the level of suspense on the whole, and we come to pay more attention to what is being at stake for our young heroine.

Like John Cho in the previous film, Storm Reid, a promising actress who previous appeared in a number of notable films including “The Invisible Man” (2020), diligently carries the film to the end, and her strong performance functions as a steady emotional anchor for the story. She and Nia Long are believable during several early scenes between them, and that is the main reason why we still care about June’s dogged search for Grace even when the movie stumbles more than once during its predictable climactic part. In case of a few notable performers around them, Ken Leung, Amy Landecker, Tim Griffin, Megan Suri, and Daniel Henney are well-cast in their respective supporting roles, and Joaquim de Almeida brings some humor and warmth to the story as his character shows more sincerity to June along the story.

Overall, “Missing” does not reach to the level of success achieved by its predecessor, but it handles its established storytelling formula a little better than expected. Compared to its predecessor and many other online thriller flicks during last several years, the movie does not break any new ground, but the movie demonstrates that its familiar online playground is still entertaining to watch, and I guess I can have a bit of expectation for a possible sequel to come.

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