The excellent under-the-radar film Missing arrived on Netflix on Saturday (May 20), and audiences online found it quite quickly. Moments ago it just hit No. 1 on the Netflix Top Movies in the U.S. list, having been at No. 2 since Sunday (according to FlixPatrol).
The thriller, written and directed by Will Merrick and Nick Johnson, is a sequel of sorts to 2018's Searching, which had a similar visual style. Its story is credited to Sev Ohanian and Aneesh Chaganty — who previously collaborated on Run (one of its other predecessors).
At the box office, Missing fought with big names, competing with Avatar: The Way of Water, M3GAN and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, which all beat it on opening weekend (even though none were new that weekend). Critics, though, were positive, awarding it an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. Plus, its audience score (90%) is even better, so you know this isn't just a lot of hype.
But none of this helps you figure out if you should watch Missing. Let's break it down.
What is Missing about?
June (Storm Reid) thought she was going to have it easy while her mother Grace (Nia Long) was out of town in Cartagena, Colombia. Her biggest nightmare was supposed to be cleaning up the huge house party she shouldn't have thrown. June thought wrong.
When Grace doesn't exit the airplane, June starts to panic and uses the internet to try and figure out where her mother is. Mom's new boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung) is suspect numero uno, and June figures out all sorts of suspicious details about his past.
But once the trail runs out, and the FBI gets involved, June pulls the most 2023 move ever: she hires a gig economy worker in Colombia to help track Grace down. And while Javier (Joaquim de Almeida) goes above and beyond, he and June soon discover a wild series of twists and turns that will leave you breathless.
Oh, and one other thing: Missing is told using the screens and cameras of those tracking Grace down.
Missing reviews: What critics and audience members say
Overall, critics and audiences liked Missing, though the film has some detractors in the reviewers' circle. For example, Amy Nicholson at The New York Times called it "a strenuous techno-thriller" before noting "When June’s quest goes viral, the investigation — along with her role in her own narrative — nearly slips out of her grasp."
Leigh Monson at The AV Club applauded Missing, writing that it's "a thrilling enough ride that it incentivizes the audiences to just go along with it. Johnson and Merrick have handily created a film on par with Searching, translating their skills as editors and virtual cinematographers into a compellingly pulpy story that’s all their own. Screenlife may never be one of the primary ways we tell cinematic stories, but Missing is a prime example of what the format is capable of, tapping into our increasingly digital humanity to excellent effect."
Benjamin Lee at The Guardian rated Missing 3 out of 5 stars, calling it "propulsive and involving and, at times, genuinely innovative but in upgrading our lead to someone who is that much more skilled behind a keyboard. He also noted "Reid is a compelling and commanding protagonist."
Over in the Rotten Tomatoes audience reviews section, Deron B writes "Great storyline with twist and turns. June bug is easy to build a connection with and acting is riveting. Would be 5 stars if visuals weren't so gimmicky in the computer scenes."
Daniel N praised it, stating "With its unique style, high pace and lavish number of twists and turns you will remain at the edge of your seat while being taught a thing or two about your digital footprint."
Missing: Stream or skip?
I saw Missing in theaters earlier this year, and am confident when I state it's not for everyone. The third act, with its completely zany twists, may test the limits of some audience members. There's also a particularly low-budget moment where we see a cable news show talking about Grace's disappearance.
Still, if you like thrillers and can enjoy sillier movies, I fully recommend you watch Missing online. Even better: invite some friends over. Missing, as I experienced it, is a great movie to watch with a group.