At The Movies: Heroines captivate in techno thriller Missing, period drama Corsage

Storm Reid plays a teenager who searches for her mother, who is believed to have been abducted, in Missing. PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

Missing (PG13)

111 minutes, opens on Thursday

3 stars

The story: When her mother (Nia Long) goes missing while on vacation in Colombia with a new boyfriend (Ken Leung), 18-year-old June (Storm Reid) from her Los Angeles home thousands of kilometres away uses every online tool available to investigate a suspected abduction.

Remember John Cho as a panicked widower trawling his daughter’s laptop for answers to her disappearance in Searching? Will Merrick and Nick Johnson, the editors on that 2018 sleeper hit, turn writers-directors for the bigger dual-continent standalone sequel Missing.

Their entire movie is again confined to a single computer screen – such is the visual format of the new “screen life thriller” subgenre that includes Unfriended (2014). But June’s tech-weaned Zoomer is no fogey dad. Her cyber sleuthing is a hypnotic whir of Google Street View, FaceTime, Siri, Ring cams, translation software and cunning password cracking. Why call the Federal Bureau of Investigation when she has outsourced via Taskrabbit a Colombian local (Joaquim de Almeida) to search for clues on-site?

Her mind is as quick as her fingers and the plot keeps breakneck pace with twists and turns in an international conspiracy in which not even her mum is who she appears to be. The mystery becomes a viral sensation to rival the true crime television series of Searching that is streaming on her MacBook – the throwaway in-joke is cheeky.

This 21st-century techno thriller is cleverly constructed, if increasingly far-fetched. It is best at capturing the digital dexterity of the younger generation and June proves a smart and likeable heroine.

Hot take: A captivating tutorial on the limitless possibilities of the Internet and the art of hacking.

Corsage (M18)

Vicky Krieps plays Empress Elisabeth of Austria in Corsage. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

115 minutes, opens on Thursday

3 stars

The story: Empress Elisabeth of Austria had a tattoo, bathed in olive oil and dieted obsessively – no Sacher Tortes – and exercised avidly. Vicky Krieps portrays the legendary trendsetter in a fictional account of her life in 1878, the critical year she turned 40.

Luxembourgish actress Krieps, the unhappy muse of Daniel Day-Lewis’ couturier in Phantom Thread (2017), endures yet more wardrobe agony in European period drama Corsage as Elisabeth laces her bodice tighter and tighter to attain her vaunted 45cm waistline.

Corsage is French for corset, this metaphor for how the pressure to preserve her widely idolised beauty was crushing her.

The title also symbolises her ornamental role as the trophy wife of Emperor Franz Joseph (Florian Teichtmeister). The film imagines her midlife crisis, whereupon she resolves to assert her independence in pursuit of pleasure far from the Hapsburg Court’s scrutiny. She travels across Europe, visiting friends and former lovers.

Austrian writer-director Marie Kreutzer’s dreamy tableaux verge on drowsy. But Krieps’ 2022 Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard Best Performance Prize-winning performance has such verve, and Elisabeth is so idiosyncratic a heroine in her intellect (she wrote poetry and studied Greek), self-destructive rebellion, wilfulness and narcissism.

She has good company in Princess Diana of Spencer (2021) and the French queen of Marie Antoinette (2006).

Her movie is another revisionist biopic of a trapped, lonely female sovereign, complete with 20th-century pop standards and, most humorously, an anachronistic plastic bucket propped inside Vienna’s Schonbrunn Palace. The contemporary mischief frees her from history, letting her take back control of her destiny.

Hot take: All hail Krieps. She rules in an arty but irreverent royal bio-drama.

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