Missing Is A Slow Burn Thriller With A Surprising Twist [Fantastic Fest]

Missing still of a young girl holding a grip in front of a young man.

Missing is that film you rewatch to see if there were clues you missed; a mystery whodunit with a moral twist.

Missing, also called Sagasu, delivers a subdued thriller playing at Fantastic Fest, where even the violent moments are unnaturally quiet. Directed by Shinzô Katayama and written by Katayama, Kazuhisa Kotera, and Ryô Katada, Missing starts with a father, Harada (Jirô Satô), struggling with his daughter, Kaede (Aoi Itô), after the death of his wife. In debt, Harada pursues a serial killer for a reward, but Kaede searches for him when he disappears. Filled with unexpected turns, Missing expands its thriller with drama, moments of levity, and a philosophical current regarding life and death. 

Missing Is Three Stories In One

Missing still of a board with a missing man's picture and a picture of a serial killer wanted poster next to it.
Missing still. Courtesy of Fantastic Fest.

There are three viewpoints the audience sees; the first is Kaede. Her relationship with her father is not always harmonious, but it is clear they love each other. Both are reeling from their loss, her father moreso. When he mentions he can solve their financial woes by finding the serial killer, Kaede does not take him seriously. But when he disappears, she and a classmate who likes her pair up to search for him. Then we get the killer’s viewpoint and then her father’s. 

Philosophy Hidden In A Thriller

The film’s outset leads you to believe it will follow a standard thriller pattern. Kaede searches for her father, and the looming question is whether he is alive or dead. But the question turns philosophical about euthanasia. Some people want to die because of their health; others choose to because they cannot find a reason to live. The larger questions throw you for a loop but feel at home as you learn about the killer getting his rocks off murdering people who want to die. 

Assisted killing is a slippery slope. As a business, euthanasia is less about helping people in pain and more about making money. Any capitalistic company wants to increase revenue each quarter and year, so the focus is not on humanely killing but on grabbing more people who want to die regardless of their reasons. The film explores this without preaching and leaves the characters to decide where they stand. Is a murderer considered a murderer if they kill people who want to die? So many questions arise from events that take up a small part of the film.  

Tension-Filled Scenes And Compelling Cast

Missing still. Courtesy of Fantastic Fest.

Scenes are quiet, so even violent scenes feel harsher with nothing to distract. The end was surprising, and that long shot left you waiting for them to stop. The direction helps with the awkward, creepy atmosphere. The acting contributes, especially between Jirô Satô and Aoi Itô. Because of their acting, you laugh at odd moments that are not funny, so much as uncomfortable. The film makes you find ways to expel discomfort, whether a short laugh or a glance away

Missing is a slow-burn thriller that leaves you clueless till the end. The chances of figuring out what happens before the film shows you are slim. I enjoyed the movie, but like Audition, it is a beautiful film. Missing is that film you rewatch to see if there were clues you missed; a mystery whodunit with a moral twist. Watch and let me know if you figure it out before the end. 

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