Thursday, September 6, 2018

[Review] Searching

Logging in as the striking directorial debut of Aneesh Chaganty, Searching is part online-drama, part missing persons thriller, and it's so well-rendered that it'll have you completely engrossed until the credits roll.

After losing his wife to cancer (which is conveyed through one of the saddest opening sequences since Pixar's Up), David Kim (John Cho) and his teenage daughter Margot (Michelle La) attempt to carry on a normal life. But things go awry when Margot disappears one day, so David sets out to track her down by desperately scouring her social media contacts and web history. In the process, he learns some surprising secrets...

The whole film takes place on a computer desktop via iMessage, FaceTime, and Google searches -- not unlike the Facebook horror film Unfriended. And the platform is used impressively well. Not only is it engaging visually, but through its mood and rhythm it also builds a major feeling of suspense and intensity that'll have you clamoring to find out where the mystery leads leads, while asking all the pertinent questions: Did Margot run away? Was she abducted? Is she dead or still alive?

Aneesh Chaganty and co-writer Sev Ohanian concoct a narrative that stacks on twists and misdirections like pop-up windows, but never to the point of being cheap or too overwhelming. In the film's crazy conclusion (which of course I won't give away), every piece fits together like a revealing and meticulously crafted puzzle. John Cho (who has been killing it recently between Fox's under-appreciated season two of "The Exorcist" and the meditative film Columbus) anchors the film with another great performance, displaying a convincing air of distress of whirl-winding emotions.

Along with prickly themes of parental worries, Searching pointedly dives into the idea that the online world can be just as resourceful as it is dangerous. If we can't fully trust the people we do know, then what about the people we don't know?

* 8.5/10 *

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