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Searching – Movie Review

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Searching – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

A few attempts have been made to create a motion picture taking place entirely on our computer screens, most famously with the horror film Unfriended. Searching manages to work, because the focus is kept on a single character and his worries over his daughter. Director Aneesh Chaganty allows the audience to grow invested in John Cho’s concerned father and uses the technology to advance the story in significant ways. He also understands he is making a film and still uses editing and camera movements to emphasize certain plot points. Searching becomes a gripping detective story that manages to move beyond its central gimmick.

Chaganty brings us into the experience by cleverly tapping into our own memories of computer and telephone technology. There’s something endearing about hearing the Windows XP start-up sound on the big screen and he has a real knowledge of the various programs available on the operating system, although most of the action eventually moves to an Apple computer. The evolution of technology provides a neat little history lesson. The opening montage brilliantly introduces us to the central characters and creates the proper connection, with Torin Borrowdale’s score serving as a particularly nice addition. These beginning moments are necessary in establishing who David and Margot are.

Rather than merely keeping Searching stuck on a single screenshot, Chaganty moves the camera around and cuts to other devices, when necessary. It adds a further dynamic to the presentation and shows he is not just relying on this simple gimmick. The various websites and programs used by David fit with the narrative and Chaganty finds humour out of how some of them are featured. Thankfully, the few moments of lightness don’t take away from the main drama. Even newscasts are cleverly integrated into the film, providing an outside perspective to the relentless search for Margot. Real websites are used, which add to the authenticity rather than being mere product plugs.

John Cho is given the task of carrying the film and manages to create a sympathetic portrait of a desperate father. He portrays the growing worry bubbling inside his head and shows a wide range of emotions as he attempts to deal with the situation. It’s a performance that mostly requires Cho to act with his face and he succeeds quite brilliantly. There are some twists and turns peppered throughout Searching, although the film provides a few hints along the way. The climax may make or break the movie for some people, but it doesn’t overall affect the product as a whole.

Searching seems to have a real understanding of technology and how it’s used nowadays, but the filmmakers know not to just rest on the novelty of telling a story through a computer or telephone screen. There’s a grasp of the various abilities at our fingerprints, making the film a clever comment on how technology has evolved to make our lives easier. However, there is also a little bit of a commentary on the Internet and some of its shadier aspects. More than the filmmaking element, John Cho ends up as the major star of Searching. He’s an actor who always manages to shine, even in smaller roles and it’s especially good to see him playing the central protagonist.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison