Something interesting: The vast majority of horror movies and thrillers are set in the past. Partially due to nostalgia being so hot right now, but also due to the fact technology can solve just about any genre film plot. However, Searching chooses to embrace modern technology, crafting a wildly intelligent and creative film.
Right off the bat, we have to give a shout-out to Aneesh Chaganty on a terrific directorial debut. Juggling the crime mystery aspects with the family drama is something established directors still struggle with. To pull that off, on top of attempting a technology-based film takes major talent. Searching is an ambitious endeavor that required Chaganty to be firing on all cylinders, to have complete control over all the variables. Integrating technology is no easy task and can easily collapse a film on top of itself. In the wrong hands, the format comes off as a gimmick, which it definitely not the case here. So if the techno-thriller aspects deter you from seeing this film, leave those doubts at the door. Not only are they handled incredibly well, but are totally necessary for the film.
“David feels like a dad. Not a superhero “Liam Neeson” dad, but a real dad with limitations (not that real dads aren’t superheroes, they totally are).”
When the central mystery revolves around the disappearance of a teenage girl in modern times, there is no avoid technology. But the integration presents not only a challenge to David in searching for his daughter, but John Cho as well. Cho is absolutely brilliant in Searching, providing a genuine and grounded protagonist. A great thriller should be a mystery that carries some emotional weight. This is set up perfectly thanks to a heart-breaking opening and the strength of Cho’s performance.
David feels like a dad. Not a superhero “Liam Neeson” dad, but a real dad with limitations (not that real dads aren’t superheroes, they totally are). Cho is at his best in scenes by himself, acting against a computer screen which can be extremely difficult. If his performance in Searching doesn’t turn your thoughts around on the former comedic actor, I don’t know what will.
I can’t go into much about the plot without spoiling it, but what I can say is it’s a tight script with twists and turns. What makes the twists work is that these aren’t Shyamalan-caliber twists that change the landscape of the film. Rather than making you think “What!? I did NOT see that coming, that’s insane”, you’re left thinking “hmmm, I didn’t see that coming. Makes sense though.”
For some this may lead to criticisms that the movie is predictable, but it’s rather the story wants you to solve the mystery. As a voyeur of David’s screens, you are given the same clues, allowing you to participate in the film and solve the mystery in real time with him. Searching is an extremely clever film, but quite the experience as well.
There’s not much to complain about, as the film does nothing inherently wrong or glaringly bad. Sure, I could nitpick the cinematography a bit, but a movie shot 70% on a computer screen isn’t going to be the prettiest. You get used to it pretty quickly though. I applaud Debra Messing for tackling a different type of role, but she just didn’t have me sold completely and came off a bit stiff.
My biggest gripe is a personal one. The film leans a bit more towards the family drama, while I would have been open to more thriller elements. Searching definitely has its tense moments and would be terrifying to watch as a parent, but it’s definitely a PG-13 film. With a darker tone, the ending could have been more effective with the revelation of certain sinister secrets. This film is definitely a thriller and will scratch your true crime itch, but don’t go in expecting Gone Girl levels of weird.
“Anchored by a career-turning performance by John Cho and the emergence of an ambitious filmmaker in Aneesh Chaganty, Searching is an airtight crime-drama…”
Seriously people, go check out this movie. Searching will go down as one of the most unique films of 2018 and just might sneak into some Top 10 lists by the year’s end. If you’ve been intrigued by the premise of Unfriended series but they just haven’t done it for you, this one might be more your cup of tea. Also, how incredibly cool is it to have an American genre film directed by an Indian man, centered around an Asian family?
Anchored by a career-turning performance by John Cho and the emergence of an ambitious filmmaker in Aneesh Chaganty, Searching is an airtight crime-drama well worth your time. Maybe even worth a second time to go back and catch all the clues you missed, it’s one of those types of movies.
Searching is currently in theaters! Plan on checking it out? Let us know what you think through any of the social media links below.