(director/writer: Aneesh Chaganty; screenwriter: Sey Ohanian; cinematographer: Juan Sebastian Baron; editors: Will Merrick/Nick Johnson; music: Torin Borrowdale; cast: John Cho (David Kim), Debra Messing (Detective Rosemary Vick), Joseph Lee (Peter), Sara Sohn(Pamela Nam Kim), Michelle La (Margot), Thomas Barbusca (Cody), Gage Biltoft (John Watson); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Timur Bekmambetov, Sev Ohanian, Adam Sidman, Natalie Qasabian; Screen Gems; 2018)

Classic crime story about a missing child that smartly goes modern using the latest tech advances on the Internet to search for a missing teen girl.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Aneesh Chaganty in his debut is the writer-director of this classic crime story that smartly goes modern using the latest tech advances on the Internet to search for a missing teen girl. The main action is set following the small screen on the computer-search.

Sey Ohanian is the co-writer, who helps make even a Google search an important part of the narrative.

With the disappearance of the 16-year-old San Jose, California, high school student Margot (Michelle La), her fearful widower Korean-American father David Kim (John Cho) in anguish calls the police when she doesn’t come home at night. The case is assigned to Detective Vick (Debra Messing), who specializes in such cases and functions well in the world of social media (YouTube, Facebook and Instagram). Looking for clues on Margot’s laptop, the cop rummages through her texts and visited sites. Meanwhile dad learns she has recently been missing her piano lessons. We learn Margot is a stable girl but was deeply affected when mom (Sara Sohn) died of lymphoma, and has since been leading a double-life. Unhappy that the investigation comes up empty, dad secretly installs hidden cameras in the homes of her friends after contacting them for more info. Clues keep dribbling in at every turn, and there’s a confrontation with dad and a disrespectful classmate when he drives to nearby Barbosa Lake and that incident is recorded by a stranger on his iPhone and goes viral. The excitement abounds for the most part with a series of twists, as the search keeps intensifying in this challenging tech film that gains as much as it loses by filming in this novel way (I still prefer the traditional way of filming, where the actors act on a large screen). The gimmicky thriller is modeled after the 2014 “Unfriended.”