Missing – Review

Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 51 minutes, Directors – Nicholas D. Johnson, Will Merrick

When her mum (Nia Long) doesn’t return from a holiday with her new boyfriend (Ken Leung) 18-year-old June (Storm Reid) uncovers various truths about their disappearance via their online profiles.

When the fad of screen-based films first spawned it was largely used by horror films such as Unfriended. 2018’s Searching took the format and used it for purposes of tension in John Cho’s search for his missing daughter. However, after that the ‘gimmick’ generally seemed to disappear, being used less frequently (but still to effect such as in Rob Savage’s terrifying Zoom-based horror Host). Now, a sort-of-sequel to Searching arrives in the form of Missing, following 18-year-old June (Storm Reid) as she tries to find out why her mum (Nia Long) and her boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung) haven’t returned from their brief holiday to Colombia.

Perhaps the key to Missing’s engagement is that the display feels genuine. From a montage of party sequences (cue Snapchat and Instagram updates) as June celebrates having the house to herself to sticky notes littered all over the desktop you believe that this is indeed an 18-year-old’s computer filled with increasing and frantic details. Much of this is helped by Reid’s excellent central performance. It could be so easy to simply put your engagement, and some of the tension, down to the format, however Reid leads the film with a strong turn capturing her character’s fear, panic and disbelief at every turn.

And there are many turns. Having seen the trailer I was worried that many of the twists and revelations had been given away, however there’s plenty left for the film to surprise you with. At certain points the build-up, or perhaps effective drawing out, of reveals is met with an open-mouth constructed with shock and some glee at just how well the rug has been pulled. The mystery is layered with plenty to not see coming and the screen-based format is used to help boost this with plenty of effect in the way the developments are captured. Whether through delving into personal accounts of those who have gone missing, or through hiring someone to find clues on the Colombian equivalent of TaskRabbit (Joaquim de Almeida’s Javi).

For much of the run-time the fast pace helps to keep you involved in the search, allowing for there to always be something to be involved in. All making the third act all the more disappointing. There’s a somewhat predictable nature to the overdone change in style and tone of the third act. It’s a segment all on its own, standing aside from everything else – including the very final few minutes – heightening false darkness with confused melodrama for a very strange set of events. It’s a late-stage fumble for what could otherwise be a thoroughly excellent thriller. Everything that comes beforehand still holds up, and there’s still a very enjoyable film here, it’s just that the final developments are something of an overdone let-down with strong stylistic and tonal changes which are never for the better.

Missing effectively makes the most of its screen format to strengthen its reveals and developments. Alongside Storm Reid’s strong central performance there’s a lot to be engaged and intrigued by. If only it didn’t falter in the overdone and predictable third act.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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