Searching - 2018
Director(s): Aneesh Chaganty
Writer(s): Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian
Cinematography by: Juan Sebastian Baron / Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick (virtual photography)
Editor(s): Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick
Cast: John Cho, Sara Sohn, Michelle La, Joseph Lee and Debra Messing
Ironically the first time I saw a trailer for Searching was during the previews of Unfriended: Dark Web and I thought to myself “Ah, that’s the better movie of the train-wreck I’m about to see”. Both movies take place inside the screen of a computer, but even in the trailer you could clearly see that Searching was utilizing this vehicle, some may say “gimmick”, as a means to elevate their story and not to hide its flaws like Unfriended did. Walking out of it I was very surprised at how involved I was in the story and how invested I felt towards the end. Let’s talk about it.
The story centers around David Kim (John Cho) and his daughter Margot (Michelle La). They have a unique relationship since they recently lost their linchpin (wife/mother) and they are slowly starting to drift apart. After Margot goes missing, David takes it upon himself to go through everything she left behind in her laptop to find any clue as to where she could’ve gone. The more he digs into her life, the more he realizes that he didn’t know his daughter and things aren’t what they seemed.
Quick note: John Cho needs to get more leading roles. He was wonderful even when tied to talking alone to a computer screen.
One of the things that I loved about this movie is how they used technology to establish the lives of our leads. We see them grow in front of our eyes and how they utilized their computer to keep track of everything they did as a family, from first day school pictures to doctor’s appointments, it all plays out inside the screen. The attention to detail within the entire runtime is impressive and I can’t imagine the amount of work that it must have taken creating all the accounts, videos, emails, texts and phone calls to make this screen feel real and something that is used on a daily basis. Even if the movie was bad, I would’ve praised the production value alone.
As for the story, like I said in my intro, it’s elevated through this medium. You become a part of David’s investigation of his daughter’s disappearance. I found myself looking at every corner of the computer screen trying to find clues, wanting to search deeper than even he was going. I truly believe that this mystery wouldn’t have worked so well if it played out as a normal movie. It’s a straightforward disappearance case that has a good pay off, and if you are clever enough or paid attention to the details on the screen you could solve it before David does.
Along with this year’s Eight Grade, this movie also highlights how we are completely different people in real life versus how we portray ourselves online. We see the kids that David interviews during his search act unsympathetic towards his daughter in person, but as soon as it becomes a social media trend they jump onboard the wave and act as if she was their best friend. The fakeness of a hashtag or the usage of a tragedy to get views on YouTube is on full display. Also, how people jump to conclusions and say vile things towards someone that is going through an unimaginable tragedy was compelling. The dual persona and the very real question of who we really are is a riveting aspect of this movie.
Searching is a compelling and engaging thriller that invites the audience to participate in this “whodunit” mystery. With a solid performance from John Cho, you will be invested from start to finish. While the ending is a bit jarring, due to the exposition dump, it’s still very satisfying conclusion to a very entertaining ride. I don’t know if this medium is the future of movies or that it’s even a viable genre, but this is by far the best use of this technique. Cho is why I love movies.
Searching is currently playing in theaters. Go watch it.
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