Not Pictured: The People Who Are Missing (CREDIT: Screen Gems)

Starring: Storm Reid, Nia Long, Ken Leung, Joaquim de Almeida, Amy Landecker, Daniel Henney, Tim Griffin, Megan Suri

Directors: Nick Johnson and Will Merrick

Running Time: 111 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Over-the-Top Ragers and Implied Disturbing Violence

Release Date: January 20, 2023 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: 18-year-old June Allen (Storm Reid) sure is ready to make her way to college so that she doesn’t have to keep constantly rolling her eyes at her mom Grace (Nia Long). She’ll get to preview that independence for about a week as Mom goes on vacation to Colombia with her new boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung, aka Miles from Lost). She proceeds to throw a nonstop, knockout rager but ultimately manages to schlep it over to LAX just in time to pick up Grace and Kevin upon their return back to the States. But then they’re nowhere to be found!

So to track them down, June enlists the help of an FBI agent (Daniel Henney), her mom’s lawyer (Amy Landecker), and a random guy on the ground in Colombia (Joaquim de Almeida). Over the course of the investigation, some rather surprising tidbits about Grace and Kevin’s pasts begin to emerge, and we see this all unfold on laptops, cell phones, and other modern Internet-connected screen devices.

What Made an Impression?: Is screenlife the best genre ever?!!! It’s a fairly young cinematic style, but it’s been producing hit after hit after hit. Unfriended was excellent! Unfriended: Dark Web took the scares to another level! Searching delivered the thrills in spades! And now we’ve got Missing serving as a standalone sequel to Searching, with a fresh story that maintains the same investigative approach and also the same gerund titling strategy. Neither Missing nor Searching has a plot that absolutely demands confining its action to screens, but that approach nevertheless keeps everything focused. And I think that’s a huge reason (perhaps even the hugest reason) why this subgenre has delivered so consistently. There are some cheats here and there in which the action spreads beyond the computer, but for the most part, the creative restraints fuel creative triumphs.

The undeniable fun of Missing is derived from its series of status quo-altering revelations, each one more gobsmacking than the rest. Pretty much everyone connected to the disappearance has their devastating secrets, and each one is calibrated for maximum audience satisfaction. I wonder if everything would still hang together on a repeat viewing, but even if the strings do start to show, that doesn’t change how effective the initial delivery is. This is a fine-tuned, well-oiled puzzle. You might be able to see greasy residue on some of the pieces, but that’s only evidence of all the essential attention to detail.

Missing is Recommended If You Like: Searching, Cable true crime docs, Online how-to guides

Grade: 4 out of 5 Windows