Some of you may very well remember a movie from a few years ago called 'Searching', starring John Cho as a man named David Kim, actively trying to find his missing daughter through all sorts of internet resources. The film was a bit of a new twist on the found footage genre but stuck to computer screens, webcams and phone cams, much like this one does. 'Missing' is the third part of an apparent anthology series about missing persons and using one's knowledge of social media and internet access to help solve the case.
We open things with a brief but well-done explanation of the passing of James Allen (Tim Griffin), father to our film's lead, June (Storm Reid) and husband to the loving but perhaps overbearing Grace (Nia Long). Several years later, Grace leaves for a vacation with her new boyfriend, Kevin (Ken Leung) and leaves Grace in the care of her friend, Heather (Amy Landecker) - this is where the "overbearing" part comes in, as June is actually 18 and frankly doesn't need a babysitter. Anyway, as it would go with most situations like this, while the happy couple is on their vacation, Grace manages to have a pretty epic party. The whole time, it should be noted that she is snubbing her mother's attempt at communication with her.
The following week, June is supposed to pick them up from the airport upon their arrival, but neither of them shows up. As June's concerns begin to mount on the whereabouts of her Mother and Kevin, June makes contact with the FBI about the missing persons, and she delves into her computer and phone to investigate even further, trying to pick up on any hints that may lead to her mother's whereabouts. She even hires a Colombian investigator named Javier (Joaquim de Almeida) who works for a small fee. It doesn't take long before June is pulled down the rabbit hole, and the more she searches for answers, the more unexpected details are unveiled, and the more she gets to wondering who it is she can really trust.
I haven't delved deep into any details about it, but there's a little-known factoid about the film 'Searching'. If you pay attention to a lot of the stuff besides the stuff you're supposed to pay attention to, you'll find evidence of an alien invasion. The signs aren't in-your-face obvious, but here's a nice little YouTube compilation I've found of the hints in question. I was looking for something like that with this film too but didn't manage to find any of it. Although, it seems that according to sources, the alien invasion subplot is going in here too. These kinds of things give both films a certain rewatchability, allowing the viewer to work on potentially solving two mysteries at a time instead of just the main one.
The best thing to compare these movies to in that sense is probably the 'Cloverfield' anthology ('Cloverfield', '10 Cloverfield Lane' and 'The Cloverfield Paradox'). They are all different stories, but all essentially share a universe that allows the viewer to piece clues together and try to solve, or at least theorize what the Cloverfield aliens were all about. The big difference there is that I'd highly recommend 'Searching' or 'Missing' much sooner than I'd recommend any of the 'Cloverfield' movies (except the first one, which I still say is awesome). The idea of using screens to tell the whole story may not have started here, but I think these movies perfected the concept.
While the whole background alien invasion thing is fun, the fact of the matter is, the main plots of both of these movies are very exciting. They are both great examples of how to tell a good story with limited resources. They're both surprisingly exciting, bringing you closer to the edge of your seat than you'd think from a simple computer screen. Both hold a good twist or two, and both are somewhat participatory. A big catch for these movies is that we know just as much as the lead knows going into it - nothing more, nothing less. It's fun in that regard to be following along, trying to make predictions and trying to get to the bottom of things yourself. These are pretty damn good for anyone seeking out a different kind of mystery.
In the end, the stories of 'Missing' and 'Searching' end up being about the same things. To some degree, both are cautionary tales about how easy it can be to hack into something if you just have access to the right materials. The thing is, it's our heroes who are doing this, so it goes against the idea that that's only a bad thing and makes one think. Further to that, they are about the rocky relationships between parents and children but told from different perspectives. So, theme-wise, extremely similar. But to give both films the credit they really deserve, I will say that at least they both executed their stories very differently, and the thrills weren't lost on me this time around. Both are well worth it for a good mystery thriller!