Friday, March 3, 2023

Diva's Movie Review: Missing Is A Riveting And Twisty Screenlife Thriller

Sony Pictures' Missing is the next installment of their critically acclaimed 2018 screenlife film, Searching. In this film genre (also know as desktop films), the audience is led through a series of events which unfolds mostly in front of a computer screen or smartphone. Directed by Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick, and a screenplay by Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian (the creators of Searching), Missing is not a direct sequel to older film, but it does follow the same formula. To its benefit, Missing manages to supercede its predecessor with a tauter and twistier thriller, and a touching mother-daughter relationship.

In Searching, Daniel Kim (John Cho) is a frantic father looking desperately for his missing teenage daughter Margot (Michelle La) via her online activities. The situation is somewhat reversed in Missing, with June (Storm Reid), a Gen Z teenager trying to trace the whereabouts of her mother Grace (Nia Long).

June has been sulky and emotionally distant from her widowed mother recently. She had lost her Dad since she was a toddler, and as Father's Day approaches, June is still trying to cope with her sense of loss. Grace, on the other hand, has been feeling lonely all these years. After getting close to her new boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung), the couple decides to travel to Columbia for their first romantic holiday together.

Grace instructs June to pick them up at LAX a week later. However, neither Grace nor Kevin turns up at the airport, and Grace is not responding to June's phone messages. Trusting her own instincts, June knows that something has gone awry, and makes urgent calls to the police, the FBI, foreign embassy (featuring a very yummy Daniel Henney as Agent Elijah Park) as well as her mother's close friend Heather (Amy Landecker). Unfortunately, they all not able to provide many useful clues as to where her mother is.

Time is running out, so June digs in and, with the help of her bestie Veena (Megan Suri), she embarks on her own investigation by using her digital know-how and all the tech arsenal available to her, including social media posts, Google maps, travel sites, location tracking, live cam directories, and dating apps. In a rather clever move, she even connects with Columbian errand runner Javi Ramos (Joaquim de Almeida) through a GoNinja app, who also provides her with some much needed 'fatherly' advice and support.

The more information June unearths from Grace's digital footprints, the more shocking secrets about her mother's life are revealed. It goes to show that no matter how close you think you are with your parents, they may not want to tell you everything that has happened or is going on in their lives. The situation gets even more urgent when June finds out who Kevin really is.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg of how and why Grace went missing. As June cracks another new password, or finds more hidden emails and distressing messages, the story takes you to many twists and turns before the mystery is solved in the last act.

Even though Missing's whodunnit is told primarily through the medium of digital screens, and that June's laptop camera is switched on almost all the time (who does that?!), Red Dot Diva found the movie to be riveting and immersive. The thriller kept her on the edge of her seat, as it hurtles along at an intense, breakneck speed - thanks to skillful film editing, a well-crafted script and familiar visuals of the apps and websites.

Lead actress Storm Reid (whom was last seen as Riley in the HBO's The Last Of Us latest episode) is compelling and likeable as a smart ass teenager born of the digital age. Her heartfelt portrayal of June's testy relationship with her Mom draws you in, and their bond becomes the emotional centre of the movie.

Missing is a cautionary tale about the current digital age. Most of us live our lives online, and the amount of information we expose about ourselves every day makes us as vulnerable as the characters on screen. If you want a crash course on cyber-stalking, Missing may be it. (Do not use your birthday as a password, people!) It also makes Red Dot Diva wonder what kind of digital traces will be left when she shuffles off from his mortal coil. Will people get a sense of her personality, or what she only chooses to disclose? But there is one thing that still continues to haunt Red Dot Diva after watching the movie: Should she leave her Google/ smartphone location tracking on, or off?

Check out the trailer for Missing:

Missing has premiered on 2 March 2023, and is now showing at local theatres. It is rated PG-13.

PS: There are Easter Eggs on Searching and Run. Hope you spotted them!

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