12. A film released in 2023: Missing (2023)
List Progress: 3/12
So many thriller or horror movies have to find ways to neutralize modern technology. The remote area with no cell service, the phone that gets smashed in the first fight, the threat of being tracked that forces everyone to abandon their devices. But films like the new thriller Missing go in the opposite direction and relish in the tech of the modern world. Perhaps this means that it will seem dated in five years, but for the exact moment this movie exists in, it is a fun bit of action about a teenager trying to find her missing mother with every bit of technology available at her fingertips.
Missing is a “screenlife” film, meaning the action takes place entirely on the main character’s computer screen. The audience follows 18 year old June’s internet searches, text chats, and sees everything that her video camera sees. This obviously requires a bit of stretching to make sure that all major events can be seen through this format, but the movie finds some creative workarounds, some which work better than others. June’s widowed mother is taking a week-long vacation to Colombia with her new boyfriend, but neither of them show up on their return flight. June suddenly has to dig into every aspect of her mother’s life in order to find out where they disappeared to and why, and learns far more about her mother as a person than she expected.
The film takes it for granted that every aspect of modern life is in some way surveilled, and doesn’t seem to have much issue with that. (Though considering how many brands had to give their permission to this movie, it makes sense it is not too critical of the modern panopticon.) A character turning off their location services while traveling abroad is seen as a sign that they must be up to something nefarious, never mind international roaming charges. It smacks of “why do you want privacy if you’ve got nothing to hide?”, and while the conclusion does push back against that idea with a good reason for someone to want to hide, the baseline assumption is still baked into the premise. What the film is more directly critical of is the fandom approach to true crime, and how social media allows everyone to have their own distasteful hot takes about traumatic things happening to real people. June scrolls through hordes of TikTok-ers speculating about whether her mother is alive or dead, and she knows her life is one more bit of entertainment and mystery for them to chew over, like she has consumed other stories for entertainment herself.
There is a lot to analyze about Missing, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it is a thriller with plenty of twists and turns. Missing is a piece of cheap, consumable media told in an interesting way, and perhaps saying more about the modern world than it ever intended to. Audiences in 2028 will probably roll their eyes, but for 2023, it rings true.
Would I Recommend It: Yes.