Aneesh Chaganty’s minimalist Quest (2018) set a pretty high standard for the relatively new narrative format. With Missing, the filmmaker settled on writer/producer and handed the helm to Nick Johnson and Will Merrick. It’s safe to say that “Missing” follows a largely similar path to The Search, with familiar themes and story costs.
Storm Reid, most recently seen in The Last of Us episode 7, plays Jun Allen. This time the tables are turned and it’s a girl looking for her mother.
In missing, the sense of familiarity is fully exploited. Sev Ohanian and Aneesh Chaganty were smart not to change the setting and themes too much. Basically, some updated technological advancements found their way into the story and affected it quite a bit. Before you start watching how easy it is to access your personal stuff online, take a breath.
While Missing’s goal is not to paint a bleak picture of endless possibilities, this element becomes an important and memorable moment from the film.
One of Missing’s greatest strengths is its ability to keep audiences guessing. The plot is full of twists and turns and just when you think you have it figured out, another surprise awaits you. This keeps the tension high and makes for a truly engaging experience. It must be said that the story is more complicated, but it costs more.
Subtext is a bit compromised as a result, but definitely not a deal breaker. The role reversal also brings a new level of vulnerability and technological know-how to the screen. It could even be argued that if the protagonist of the previous film had been David Kim, he wouldn’t have gotten very far.
The volatility of his emotional and mental state is markedly different from Kim’s. This puts the audience, especially young people, in a more relevant position relative to the story. With this in mind, there is a sense of stereotyping by Chaganti in some aspects of teenage life today. This allows for some comfortable characterization of Grace and her friends, helping to tell the story. But none of the Lost Traps can be said to bring him down.
Most defects are excusable and do not materially affect the Loss. The editing is once again superior to create a seamless experience of watching the film and following the plot. We move from one window to another with great efficiency and purpose. Ironically, the editors of Search are the directors of Missing – Merrick and Johnson.
There are also some internal potshots of Chaganti and Ohania. Unfiction, a parodic true crime series set in the Missing universe, is streaming on Netflix, not Prime Video, the platform on which Missing can be streamed. A few years ago, Netflix was rumored to have picked up the sequel to finance and distribute it, but the deal apparently fell through.
The meta touch is in good taste and a common part of Missing’s cut-throat funny vein. The story had another promise to be taken out of the genre, but it “misses” the point.
Storm Reid is exceptional as June, which makes for a believable hero as John Cho in The Search. After seeing her bold personality as Riley in The Last of Us, it’s ironic that we’re seeing her star in a central role. She is comfortable with the spectrum of emotions, showing no weakness in expressing June’s state of mind. She is well supported by Amy Landecker (Heather), Nia Long (Grace) and Tim Griffin (James).
Dating Lobby drives home the point of a reliable narrative approach, becoming another engaging watch from Aneesh Chaganty’s growing body of work.