Sequels are a risky business. Not only is the reputation of the first film – which would have obviously been a stellar hit to warrant a sequel – on the line, but the sequel must also have everything that the audience loved from the predecessor and a little more to bring in a sense of freshness. Missing, the standalone sequel to Searching (2018), isn’t just a fitting successor but also a far superior film in several aspects when compared to the John Cho starrer.
Similar to the first film, and as the name suggests, this film is also about a missing person. But unlike Searching, which was about a single father seeking his lost daughter, Missing is the chronicle of a teenager, June (Storm Reid), doing whatever she can to find her missing mother (Nia Long). Directors Will Merrick and Nick Johnson, who served as the editors of Searching, have made their directorial debut with Missing which is written by Sev Ohanian and Aneesh Chaganty, the director and co-writers of Searching respectively. Knowing the key aspects that made the original film an important addition to the list of films that come under the relatively new screenlife genre of films, Missing sticks to the ideas that made Searching a success.
Film: Missing (English)
Director: Will Merrick, Nick Johnson
Cast: Storm Reid, Ken Leung, Nia Long, Joaquim de Almeida, Daniel Henney
Storyline: A teenager, trying to find her missing mother, ends up finding that there’s more to the disappearance than meets the eye
Run time: 111 minutes
At its surface, both films brush upon the same tropes. They zoom into how technology and the digitalisation it brings in is a double-edged sword, how the same technology which brings people closer virtually has actually distanced them in real life and how we turn to it for solutions without realising how that ‘modern marvel’ is the reason for the trouble in the first place. Even if not for the digital allegories, there are common references to how those we might know our entire lives may still have a lot in them that we are unaware of.
Both films work thanks to how the makers incorporate the technology we know and wish to be on top of into a plot to discover new leads, follow the breadcrumbs and finally solve a case. Missing takes this up a notch by expanding the canvas the story is set on, raising the stakes, and introducing more shocking and thrilling twists that make for a more nail-biting experience. Another aspect that makes Missing more intriguing is the complexity of the relationship the parent and the child share. Despite sticking to the ‘annoying teenager and over-protective parent’ trope, a series of twists make both June and the audience realise that there is so much more to Grace and her disappearance than what we know.
It won’t be surprising to see both films as archives of the steep rise in technology in a specific time period. Despite just a gap of five years between the two films, the arsenal of apps, software, AI and gadgets June has at her disposal is far more advanced than what David Kim had back in 2018. This works even on a meta-level when you realise how the film’s visual storytelling has improved drastically despite still being a computer-screen film. A brilliant example is the transition of Spotify’s horizontal music progress bar into a vertical Google Map direction bar. Thanks to a fast-paced screenplay, even just seeing a computer screen and listening to the keyboard buttons pressed for quite a few brief moments doesn’t feel draggy. The meticulously done editing also directs your attention to the next scene instead of lingering in one which might lead you to think of easier solutions or factual corrections your brain might want to autofill or solve – a simple one being why June’s webcam is always on, showing us everything from her having a meltdown to jumping in excitement over her Eureka moments. Not to mention the alarmingly high number of convenient resolutions that makes you almost forget the concept of the possible number of permutations and combinations for something to happen.
Missing, as a whole, may just be a template mystery thriller masquerading under the ‘today’s internet world’ setup. But this franchise is known for moments of brilliance and they are no different from the ones in which Sherlock Holmes uncovers a clue and smirks a smile of satisfaction. Throw in some decent performances, a type of witty humour that’s unique to this genre and heart-touching emotions to tie it all up and all of that makes Missing a far more intriguing successor to Searching.
Missing is currently running in theatres