The new film from the writing/directing duo of Nick Johnson and Will Merrick, based on a story by the original “Searching” team of Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian, takes the exact same approach. It pulls off the impressive narrative highwire act but includes a couple twists too many, eventually depleting it of much of the realism that makes it so gripping for so long. But “Missing” is also zippier in a lot of ways, because the character who’s front and center is an 18-year-old high school senior who’s interacted with this kind of technology her whole life, rather than a middle-aged dad who’s figuring it out as he goes along.
Storm Reid’s June is a master multitasker, a wizard of the World Wide Web. It’s like watching Lydia Tár conduct the Berlin Philharmonic, only with FaceTime and Venmo and Spotify. Even before her widowed mom, Grace (a lovely Nia Long), takes off on a Colombian vacation with her new boyfriend, Kevin (Ken Leung), we learn so much about the way June spends her days simply by watching her skip between tabs and tap away at her keyboard. She frequently leaves on the camera on her computer, allowing us a peek inside her bedroom and the way she interacts with people IRL. Reid has a likeable, engaging screen presence, and she establishes quickly that June is both smart and a smart-ass.
But once Grace and Kevin fail to show up at LAX as scheduled – which we also see because June has set up her cell phone to capture the moment she greets them at baggage claim – her instincts and years of experience online really kick into gear. We feel her increasing terror as she struggles to communicate with the front desk clerk at a Cartagena hotel, who only speaks Spanish. But she’s such a resourceful problem solver, she realizes she can navigate this city remotely with Google maps and the help of a Taskrabbit-style errand runner for hire named Javi (Joaquim de Almeida, who brings a welcome warmth and humor to this suspenseful scenario).