I remember the film “Searching” from 2018; a lightweight premise executed briskly by a former Google employee (yes, look it up), it takes an increasingly popular yet overdone gimmick and creates a compelling narrative that actually benefits from its limitations rather than hold it back.
I did not expect “Missing” to be Aneesh Chaganty’s return to the fold nor for this to be an anthology……not for this to be in par with the first film. January, what’re you going?
Another odd-hybrid of the found footage genre and of an actual narrative film, the directing resorts to showing many forms of multi-media to help paint a story that we can follow while keeping the traditional cinematic bells and whistles. Aneesh returns as the writer but Nick Johnson and Will Merrick take over the directing here. They do a really solid job balancing out the emotional journey alongside the cluttered footage presentation, navigating a high-wire act of storytelling with enough plausibility to see it through.
Julian Scherle’s musical score is the fairly standard drivel of inclining pressure and bubbling anxiety, the atmosphere is equal parts oppressive, squirrelly and uncertain thanks to being larger in scope, it stylistically builds upon the blueprint of its attention to detail to wholeheartedly admirable results in its production design and they did bring back some well-placed humor to defuse the tension when it calls for it.
I don’t think I gave either the cinematography or editing much credit before the first time around. Here, there’s so much personality in the way they intersplice or fast forward through such inventive visual transitions that either keep the story’s momentum or accelerate it and they do a damn god job at making it look fresh. The pacing too never falters, never drags, never gives too little or too much away at a brisk and manageable speed, same could be said of the tone and, of course, the performances are equal parts vulnerable and engaging. Storm Reid anchors the ship in a demanding but rewarding tour-de-force but Joaquim de Almeida comes dangerous close to doing the same.
Searching’s story was a sobering reminder of how traceable our lives can be via a digital fingerprint but also a love story regarding those we consider family that felt oddly reminiscent of Pixar’s Up now that I think about it. The main thing connecting this and Searching is not only the lengths presented that one will go to to find and protect those they care about but also the unraveling of secrets revealing you don’t really know the person you love; there’s a lot of heart and tenderness in the drama that comes from these emotions and the mystery itself benefits from expanding the limited medium in fascinating scenarios that tests the characters and how far they’ve come.
It’s the same narrative structure that both warns us of the consequences of mining tragedy for likes and views but also celebrates its possibilities and the good that it can produce once every blue moon. For a movie essentially about glorified cyber-sleuthing, its genre movie fabric is compact with themes of emptiness, regret and coping with loss and there’s jarring accuracy in not just its jabs towards today’s social media and internet culture but the relatability in such simple but primal fears.
I think the big issue that hindered this a little bit was the over-reliance on twists after twists after out-of-nowhere twist. Yeah, it makes the film unpredictable for a little while but just like Searching, the more that gets piled on, the quicker it gets confusing and it made me worry if it would overstay its welcome. That also ties into the final reveal near the end because while the twist was a good one, holy hell, the key antagonists' motivations are guaranteed to be a nitpicker's nightmare due to how the plan strains believability if you think about it for too long.
But, seriously……again, January? What the hells going on? You’re actually giving out decent to good movies this year straight out of the gate for once. Try and keep it up, ok?