Missing (2023) Review – anxiety-ridden and armrest-grabbing movie

By Marc Miller
Published: January 22, 2023 (Last updated: January 24, 2024)


Anxiety-ridden and armrest-grabbing, Missing is the type of old-fashioned thriller that trades star power for a good story that audiences are clamoring for.

We review of 2023 movie Missing, which does not contain spoilers.

There is just something about the new genre of storytelling from the original makers of Searching that brings the necessary storytelling suspense that audiences have been searching for. Missing from Hollywood films is a good story, one that doesn’t cover up plotholes with massive globs of expensive CGI and special effects. Missing‘s anxiety-ridden and armrest-grabbing script is so old-fashioned it could be considered retro.

Missing (2023) movie Review and Plot Summary

The story follows an 18-year-old high school student named June (A Wrinkle in Time’s Storm Reid), a teenager who has lived with the trauma of her father’s dying of cancer when she was a small child. She lives in that moment daily. So much so she is so worried about losing another parent, evident by the way she saves almost any voicemail from her mother, Grace (Nia Long), even keeping her at a distance to protect herself. However, Grace is moving on with her life. She is now dating Kevin (Kenneth Leung of The Sopranos and Lost fame), who is eager to win June’s approval.

Kevin is taking Grace on vacation to Columbia (was Hawaii closed for the season?). So, what possibly could go wrong? Grace is overprotective of her and is now recognized by the state as an adult daughter. She transfers 350 dollars into her account for emergencies while she is gone. The single mother also has her best friend and attorney, Heather (Amy Landecker), check in on her. Unfortunately, the vacation takes place over father’s day, another reminder of what she never had and lost.

June throws a party with her friends over the weekend. She then goes to pick up her mother at the airport, but she is nowhere to be found. Worried, she contacts Heather. They begin to reach the Columbian consulate and the FBI agent assigned to the case (played by The Wheel of Time‘s Daniel Henney) when things do not move as fast as June’s liking with all the red tape. The determined teen hires a local handyman (Desperado‘s Joaquim de Almeida) for eight dollars an hour to head over to the hotel to review the footage. What she finds next is terrifying. Why? Because she could find herself parentless and without family if she can not bring her mother home.

If the film looks familiar, it should. Written and directed by Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick, the story comes from Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian, responsible for 2018’s surprise Hitchcockian hit, Searching. Johnson and Merrick, bother editors on Chaganty’s first film, show an eye-opening amount of confidence and a remarkably steady hand for their first-time feature. Keep in mind this is the first feature film they both have written and directed. (Both have only performed those duties in a handful of short films up to this point). The final product of this stand-alone sequel is well-crafted. The script still builds a genuine amount of suspense while keeping the first trademark poignancy.

And that’s no short feet working with such a young actress in Storm Reid. While Searching had the always underutilized and underappreciated John Cho’s moving portrayal of a broken father frantically searching for his missing daughter, Reid’s June brings enough stoic thoughtfulness to the screen that is refreshing. The young actor doesn’t veer far away from the script, never mugging up the screen for effect. Reid keeps a youthful way about her character that is believable. Like rolling her eyes at Heather for finding Kevin hot or violating boundaries with Javier, it all works well within the story.

Many may find the storytelling tool of moving the narrative through a “screenlife” mystery tiresome, but I have to admit the device remains endlessly clever here. Using websites, live cams, security video doorbell systems, geo-tracking, and the amusing use of a streaming service builds the tension needed for a thriller. Admittingly, the “gimmick” allows the script to patronize (or even be condescending to) the audience. The trick here is without anyone realizing it. Even without the negative consequences.

Is the 2023 movie Missing good?

While Searching had the tone of a true crime documentary, Missing tends to expand on the original’s premise, which sometimes tends to strain credibility. Also, the film’s big twist is fairly obvious if you know what to look for and have seen enough movies to know what to expect. Yet, the script is suspenseful and touching enough to make the viewer care. It’s the old-fashioned thriller with a modern presentation that trades star power for a good story that audiences are clamoring for.

What did you think of the 2023 movie Missing? Comment below.

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