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‘Missing’: An electrifying mystery told through iconic screenlife aesthetics

Originally Published on January 27, 2023

“Missing” follows the story of a teen girl trying to track down her mother through the computer screen. (Photo courtesy of The Movie Spoiler) In recent years, small-budget thriller and horror films have brought considerable income for cinemas. Much like blockbuster action pictures, these movies incentivize audiences to come to the theaters for that high-adrenaline, emotional movie experience that is best achieved with a large group of people. Released just this last week, “Missing” provides filmgoers with this kind of heart-pounding experience while offering relevant social commentary on our tech-centric society.

“Missing,” the spiritual sequel to 2018’s “Searching,” incorporates elements of thriller, mystery and horror using a unique technique: all the events in the film are shown through computer, tablet and smartphone screens. Specifically, the narrative movements and shots in the film are all screen captures of news broadcasts, messaging apps, video chat sessions and security camera footage.

While this approach to film-making may seem limiting on the surface, “Missing” is a highly immersive experience that gives viewers very in-depth glimpses into the personal lives of its characters. It’s the kind of film that really hooks your attention and keeps you hooked until you reach the end. Some might find its complex layers, unexpected twists and quick pacing exhausting, but it really worked for me.

The main protagonist of “Missing” is a high schooler named June (Storm Reid) who attempts to track down her mother (Nia Long). Placing the younger family member in the lead role this time around, in contrast to “Searching,” greatly increases the stakes and obstacles. It tells a unique coming-of-age story about a young woman who is struggling with the loss of her father, placing her in a heightened state of vulnerability. She needs to find her mother or she will be left without any parental support. At the same time, she must fight to convince the adults around her to take the situation seriously.

Despite her difficult circumstances, June powers through with her quick intelligence and tech savviness. Though she has few financial resources to work with, she makes great use of social media apps, online freelance websites and password hacking to find the answers to her mother’s whereabouts. Astonishingly, the answers June finds and the way she discovers them rarely overstep the confines of logic or believability.

Ultimately, the film highlights the Orwellian quality of our digitized society, where incredible technological innovations have often made connecting with others and with ourselves more complicated. The only real issue with the movie as a whole is its slightly chaotic and melodramatic third act, which I won’t spoil here. But despite this, the film is definitely worth seeing to the end.

I’m also not sure whether the film’s impact will remain as exciting upon a second viewing, but I cannot stress how enjoyable this experience was. This is the kind of film people need to see in the theater and I highly recommend taking a group of friends if you’re looking for a night out you won’t soon regret.




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