“You are not the darkness you endured. You are the light that refused to surrender.” – John Mark Green
We are in the time of the January studio movie dump where they put out releases they have little to no faith in hopes for even the slightest return on a shaky investment. However January can also be somewhat of a surprise season where the worst are still released but among them the rare gem is found. The Liam Neeson thriller, and arguably one of Neeson’s recent best, The Grey opened on January 27, 2012. Another Neeson action classic, Taken, January 30, 2009. A Sean Penn directed Jack Nicholson in the moody and affecting, The Pledge was released on January 19, 2001. One of my personal favorites in recent memory, the surprise sequel to the 2000 M. Night thriller, Unbreakable, 2017’s Split featuring a knockout performance by James McAvoy and a performance by the lovely Anya Tayor-Joy who confirmed in this movie that if anything, she was here to stay.
I could go on but I think you get my point. With my topic of choice it brings up the question of what camp Missing finds itself in; typical January junk or January jewel? Unlike most of the movies I listed above, Missing has a leg up on the competition by not being an original but rather a sort-of sequel to the 2018 sleeper hit, Searching. A movie that was yet another surprising, worthwhile thriller. I can say happily that Missing, like its predecessor, is another surprise that I would argue, is one not to miss.
Missing is a pitch perfect amalgamation of the modern era youth utilizing their greatest asset readily available to them at their very fingertips, in their pockets and even on their televisions, the internet. It’s about the utilization of modern day, user friendly technology to find the location of someone beloved, now missing and presumed in great danger. In this particular story we meet June Allen, a typical teenager wanting independence in the face of her helicopter mother, Grace. Having experienced a great trauma in June’s early years, Grace feels justified in being the overprotective parental figure.
In the midst of their mother/daughter difficulties, Grace takes a vacation with her new boyfriend, who June never really connected with. But loving her mother, and wanting some freedom, she watches as Grace leaves and to June’s dismay, never returns. Unlike the times of my youth, the internet, in the capable hands of someone like June, is a tool to even the playing field and finding out the truth of her mother’s disappearance. As with any great mystery, the truth is something unimaginable. With each new piece of information unearthed it brings about the question of how much of the truth does someone really want to know. As they say, ignorance is bliss.
A few horror movies have tried and failed to utilize this style of storytelling. 2015’s Unfriended was a supernatural spin on the computer screen setting. It just wasn’t scary. A sequel was released in 2018 to the same result. The incredibly cheesy, horribly made 2014 wannabe thriller, Open Windows was a masterclass of what not to do with this newly created sub-genre. In my opinion, what works about Missing is what worked with the first in this franchise, Searching.
Rather than a hindrance, the internet with its virtually unlimited reach is utilized in the same manner a detective with intuition and a gun is used to find the bad guy. The difference is the catalyst that makes technology so useful as it possesses an inhuman ability to detect and find the details we as people want hidden most. All that’s required is a know-how of these modern day tools, maybe a bit of cash and an intuition to search for things most might not think of looking for. Missing is proof that smart characters aren’t an automatic fix-it therefore you need stupid people to prolong the story. You can have intelligent characters like June who use their intelligence and prowess to find the hidden crumbs littered in the history of the people she once thought could be trusted.
The twists and turns of Missing are plentiful and simple but no less jaw dropping. From the moment things take off, you are pulled into June’s world as she attempts to circumvent the law which is tied up with so much red tape her own mother may never be found. As she uses the internet and discovers truths about her own past traumas, June becomes more determined to discover Grace’s whereabouts and to prove her mother’s newly in question innocence. As the walls close in and it becomes apparent something incredibly sinister is taking place, June’s greatest discovery just may be that she is in over her head and the culprits may not be much further than her own front door.
From surveillance videos to live, on location cameras from around the world, the internet and all of its power is on display in both the good and evil because as advanced as it may all be, it’s still very human.
Missing is perfectly paced and wonderfully twisted. The characters are complex and interesting. They make mistakes and endure the repercussions of those missteps. Most importantly, it takes the normally cumbersome idea of being stuck on a screen and widens it, making the world of June and Grace feel as big as her search which is global and yet so personal. I was skeptical of Searching and was pleasantly surprised. As Missing carries on it becomes obvious the same care and attention to detail was given to this sort-of sequel. January junk or January jewel? Jewel. Definitely.
Rated PG-13 For: some strong violence, language, teen drinking, and thematic material
Runtime: 111 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Starring: Storm Reid, Nia Long, Tim Griffin, Ken Leung
Directed By: Nicholas D. Johnson, Will Merrick
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 9/ Acting: 8/ Directing: 8.5/ Visuals: 8
Buy to Own: Yes.
Check out the trailer below:
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