Missing, by Albert W. Vogt III

Have you ever sat or stood over someone’s shoulder and watched them use their computer?  Well, if you see Missing, get ready for almost two hours of this kind of nonsense.  Perhaps I am not being charitable.  At the same time, neither am I lying.  The movie is shot entirely from the perspective of somebody looking at a computer screen.  I thought they had left this style of filmmaking behind with Profile (2018).  Nope!  As if after all we have been through with COVID forcing us to live a majority of our lives in a digital space, we need to see more of this kind of thing in Missing?  I get it, though.  I am increasingly approaching fuddy-duddy status with my arcane and quaint distaste for not basing my entire existence on the internet.  As we shall see, this is only the beginning of my complaints.

One might get the impression with the beginning that Missing is also one of those loathsome found footage movies.  A toddler June Lee (Ava Zaria Lee) is playing in a strangely empty room with her father, James (Tim Griffin).  Soon, the video pauses on an image of father and daughter together shortly after her mom Grace (Nia Long) enters the room.  We notice that it is being played on the computer which is the setting for the bulk of the now eighteen-year-old June’s (Storm Reid) activities.  She is doing what I suppose anyone of her age and social standing does: live their lives through various applications.  This is much to Grace’s annoyance, though that feeling is mutual.  It comes out in June’s exasperation over mom’s novice handling of her devices.  It is compounded when Grace continues to coddle her daughter despite her age. Grace is in a heightened state of concern as she is preparing to leave on a romantic getaway to . . . Columbia?  I have nothing against the country, I just would not think of it as the go-to place for lovers.  Anyway, she is traveling with her new boyfriend Kevin Lao (Ken Leung).  Oh, I suppose I should mention that dad died of a brain tumor years ago, not that it matters (you will see why).  The trip is welcomed by June as she is planning to have a huge party while mom is out of the house, which lasts seemingly for days.  When she finally emerges from the fog of too much celebrating, it is the day she is to pick Grace and Kevin up from the airport and she is running late.  This turns out not to be an issue as neither of them arrive from overseas.  Hours go by and the internet sleuthing begins.  June finds the number to the hotel in Cartagena in which they stayed.  Though the clerk there did not speak English, through Google translate she is able to get him Grace and Kevin’s description.  As such, he is able to recall their faces and ask if anyone is going to come get their stuff.  Suspicions raised further, June asks if she can get the security footage from the hotel.  The clerk refuses this request, citing the need for a police order.  At this point you might be wondering why the police are not already involved.  They are, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agent in Cartagena, Elijah Parks (Daniel Henney), and Heather Datmore (Amy Landecker), an attorney friend of the family, but June consistently ignores them.  They all caution June to remain calm and let the authorities handle the situation.  Instead, she finds the number of a helping service (not sure how to describe this one) who might be able to go to the hotel and get the security footage.  Because she is also on a budget based on the little money she has left over from partying, she gets Javier (Joaquim de Almeida).  Despite his cut rate, he is willing to help her, and relates to her story because he had lost his wife.  Though he is not able to obtain the sought after recording, he does find some other useful information.  Meanwhile, her internet sleuthing leads her to investigate Kevin.  The further she ventures down that particular rabbit hole, the more a sinister character emerges.  However, this turns out to be a red herring.  Yes, he has a criminal past, and he appears to have hired someone to impersonate his mother (Lauren B. Mosley) for their trip, but he also seemed genuinely reformed and devoted to Grace.  Whatever it is that is going on with him, he is key to unraveling a deepening mystery, which also includes an alias emerging used by Grace.  Unfortunately, he is shot dead while being apprehended in Columbia.  He is not the only victim.  In digging further into Kevin, it becomes apparent that Heather had been in on this scheme.  In turn, June goes to confront her only to find her murdered in her office.  To the police, the case is bringing nothing but dead ends, and soon they remove their officers from June’s house.  Shortly after they leave, a person named Jimmy comes to the door.  June had contacted him earlier in connection to Kevin.  It turns out to be her father.  What had happened all those years ago, and which June cannot remember, is that James had abused Grace, then going by Sarah, forcing her to flee with June after seeing him put in prison for drug possession.  We had gotten out and had found where they had relocated.  Everything that happened had been part of a scheme to get him out of their lives.  When it backfires, he decides to kidnap June, joining Grace at the house they once shared.  Luckily for them, James overlooks June’s smartwatch, which she uses to contact Javier, who in turn contacts the police.  They get to the residence in time to save a wounded Grace, who had been shot while mortally wounding James in a struggle for freedom.  We end a year later with mother and daughter reunited . . . sort of.

I say they are “sort of” reunited at the end of Missing because June is apparently off to college and they are, once more, communicating through FaceTime.  And as hinted at in the introduction, therein lies my major beef with this entire movie.  Again, who wants to watch people operate a computer for two hours?  While watching the film, I kept waiting in vain for some actual cinematic moments.  It gets particularly annoying during the closeups of the FaceTime window when it focuses on June’s face.  Ever wonder what Joaquim de Almeida’s sweaty neck looks like?  Watch this movie to find out!  There are maybe a handful of non-computer shots, such as when the police vehicles pull up to the house in which Grace and June are held captive.  For a second I thought, okay, something interesting is about to be seen.  Nope!  It quickly turns into an episode of a fictional true crime series June enjoys being played on, you guessed it, her computer.  I do not mean to be blasé about the subject matter.  A missing person is serious business.  Yet, between the way it is shot, and the aggravating nature of June’s decisions instead letting the authorities handle the matter, it all made for a pretty boring theater experience.

There is another, smaller aggravating aspect of Missing specific to this Catholic reviewer.  As alluded to in the synopsis, while tracking down information about Kevin, June ends up calling “Holy Father Ministries.”  This is how she talks to Jimmy, not realizing it is her father.  She is told that it is a Christian organization that helps ex-convicts get through the struggles of civilian life.  Further, she puts him into her contacts as Jimmy Christian Guy, or something along those lines.  This is not an uncommon thing amongst Christians.  Nearly every denomination has some kind of prison ministry, either for the current or formerly incarcerated.  The problem is that it turns out to be the psychopath, James.  I am probably in the minority of people who notice or think about such things, but why did it have to have a Christian connotation?  There are already an increasing number of people who equate believing in God with lunacy, and that is probably the most benign way they think about Christians.  I have friends, who are (unsurprisingly) not Christian, who believe that a certain segment of the Faithful are the most dangerous people in this country.  It is a sad state of affairs, and one that is never far from my mind.  This is why these things occur to me when I see something like Holy Father Ministries.

So, once more, if seeing people do research is your idea of a good time, by all means watch Missing.  There is nothing too objectionable about it, and thankfully there is no blood and gore.  To be fair, too, there is a nice little arc to the relationship between Grace and June, with daughter coming to better appreciate mother.  That is cool.  As a whole, the movie is not.

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