January 31, 2023

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‘Missing’ review: Storm Reed does his detective work by screen

4 min read

It’s hard not to judge “Missing” on its own merits for viewing the world through devices — much less hunger — but it would be unfair for directors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick to pull it off. Making their directorial debut, the duo tells the labyrinthine story of a teenager’s search for her missing mother from perhaps the least visually appealing perspective possible, making it almost cinematic in the process. Still, an unlikely escalation of events and a few nagging questions about who’s doing what and how render this screenlife thriller to a degree that unfortunately resonates better on an intimate, handheld scale than the big screen.

Storm Reid stars as June Allen, a restless 18-year-old eager to take her mother Grace (Nia Long) on ​​a romantic trip to Colombia with Grace’s new boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung). June and Grace have been estranged since June’s father James (Tim Griffin) died of cancer. In home-cinema footage from June’s childhood, James evidences a comfort with his daughter that his wife compensates for with overprotection, a pattern that continues until the moment Grace leaves US skies. But when June dutifully arrives at the airport a few days later to pick up Grace and Kevin from their trip, they mysteriously miss their return flight.

June files a missing person’s report for Grace, but not before contacting their hotel, whose desk clerk adds to her concern by informing her that they left all their luggage behind. Enlisting her classmate Bina (Megan Suri), as well as Javi (Joaquim de Almeida), a courier she helps lead to Colombia, June either extracts or hacks her mother’s online account passwords — and from there, Kevin’s — any Hoping for the kind of path that leads to Grace’s location. June eventually discovers some intriguing conversations between Grace and Kevin from their early days that she shares with the authorities, but their combined efforts raise more questions than answers, leaving the teenager increasingly unprepared as she faces the prospect of losing her only remaining parent.

Although June uses her technological literacy only for good, “Missing,” like its “cinematic universe” predecessor “Search,” offers a poignant reminder of how much of our daily lives can be traced through some sort of digital footprint. Not only can he track his mother’s phone to the moment of her disappearance, but he can watch Grace in Colombia through cameras placed in tourist destinations (both live-stream and record) and trace her spending through her bank account. It’s debatable whether a disgruntled but otherwise normal Gen-Zer will actually be able to easily navigate all these apps and programs that a Zune possesses. A few years ago, the story would almost certainly feature a nerdy classmate to provide the necessary skills. It’s hard to say whether this is progress or laziness on the part of the filmmakers.

The challenge with a story about screens is how to make them interesting — the characters must be made more out of the cage — and Johnson and Merrick do a serviceable, if inconsistent job of balancing June’s emotional journey and chaotic desktop. His amateur investigation. As annoying (and perhaps believable) as it might be for a teenager to talk to everyone around them while staring at a phone or monitor from a distance, the audience is invested when she’s on screen, and if Reid plays some of the key scenes almost comically, she Viewing becomes preferable to too-many open-tab exposition that comes and goes to the filmmakers’ convenience or frustration.

Unlike earlier ScreenLife films like “Unfriended,” which boasted that the story effectively consists of unfiltered “found” footage, there’s no reason the film needs to be confined to a phone or computer monitor, especially since composer Julian Sherrell provides a buzzing, heightened intensity. For a fairly constant score, and Johnson and Merrick freely cut into external corners when it suits them. But in keeping with the idea that June’s device should deliver as much action as possible, the filmmaking duo downplays the original by photographing them from chaotic wide angles and then zooming in as if they were trying to perfect grainy surveillance. footage

Even if it doesn’t offer any particular insight into them, the film touches on the contemporary phenomenon of amateur sleuthing from a distance, the influence of decades of “Dateline”-type shows on investigators (here’s one, taken from “Investigation),” it says. unimaginative”) and the proliferation of unhelpful, half-baked theories about crime ripped from headlines on social media platforms. “Disappeared” ultimately proves so visceral to its central technical premise that audiences who take it at face value are seeing certain facts and who. In hindsight, focusing on a sequence of events that is increasingly absurd but questionable should still prove gripping — at least as long as those who watch it don’t dig as far as June.

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