How often do you see a trailer for a film which is essentially a ‘found-footage’ that looks amazing but the end product never lives up to the concept’s promise? Watching the trailer for Searching you would be forgiven for thinking this is another one of those films. But, you’d be wrong. Searching is a taught, emotionally fuelled mystery thriller that genuinely ticks all the boxes you want from a film of this nature.
David Kim (John Cho) is a single parent raising his musical protege daughter Margot (Michelle La). But when Margot goes missing David will delve into his daughter’s online existence and discover he didn’t really know her. When the police become involved Detective Vick (Debra Messing) must try and find Margot while preventing David from doing anything that could jeopardize the investigation.
Remember the opening of Pixar’s Up? Remember how it left you a blubbering wreck in the first five minutes of the film? Well Searching manages to achieve something similar. But what it also does in these opening moments, while reminding you how retro things like Google used to look back in the day, is ease you into the world and language of Searching.
This is not your regular whodunnit thriller. Yes there are certain genre staples, red herrings, frantic searches, and untrustworthy sources but more than anything this is a dissection of a person, or rather an online persona. It’s a smart and original way of illustrating in almost snippet like glimpses.
There is a simplicity to the execution that is remarkably effective. We all know this world, this online, cursor typing existence. It makes Searching both relatable and chilling. Witnessing David unearth not only who his daughter might be when he’s not looking but also the falsehoods with which people associated with the case are capable of portraying makes you wonder if you can in fact trust anything you see online. A certain world leader would no doubt be shouting at his screen, “LOOK! Fake news is everywhere”, before googling the case in the film convinced it is in fact reality.
Feature film debut director Aneesh Chaganty, interestingly enough a former employee of Google, achieves something truly remarkable with Searching. He concots a premise of execution that he constantly evolves, manipulates and only occasionally stretches to heighten an already intriguing story. It is the kind of idea that will no doubt spawn countless inferior imitators.
Who knew spending a whole film watching someone navigate social media and a computer could be so captivating. Searching is a film that dials you into a thrilling mystery and then broadbands you to its riveting conclusion.