A phenomenally intriguing social media-focused movie.
There have been many movies that have featured computing and, more specifically, social media at their heart. Some these have used the device of the view “from the screen”: 2016’s entertaining “Nerve” had elements of this, with the majority of the rest of the film being ‘augmented reality’ over the video. But it was 2014’s teen-horror “Unfriended” that set a new bar being seen entirely through a computer screen. No surprise then that the producer of that one – Timur Bekmambetov – is also behind “Searching”. For – although taking a few liberties with news vidoes, that may or may not be showing on Youtube – the whole film is shot through computer screens.
“Oh no!” you sigh “another gimmicky B-movie”. Far from it. Not only is this a really helpful training film for Windows tips and tricks! It’s also a totally absorbing crime mystery anchored by a superb script that keeps the audience guessing to the end.
John Cho – most famous as Sulu in the Star Trek reboots – plays David Kim who is trying to control his 16 year-old daughter Margot (Michelle Ya, in her movie debut). Kim, working in some form of product development, is no technology luddite, and when Margot disappears he uses his nous about social media to try to piece together the fragments of the puzzle to assist police Detective Vick (Debra Messing, “Grace” in “Will and Grace”).
To say any more would ruin what is a masterly roller-coaster ride of twists and turns. The script by first-time director Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian doesn’t let its audience relax for a moment, spawning more movie cul-de-sacs and red herrings than a classic Agatha Christie.
In the acting stakes John Cho – who really doesn’t get given much to do in the Star Trek background – is here impressively believable as the parent, struggling with both bringing up a teen – enough to stress any mortal out – and an emotional past. Ms La is also equally engaging, given most of her scenes are via close-up web cam.
Criticisms? The film, at 102 minutes, might have usefully trimmed 10 minutes to be an even tighter 90 minute classic. I also thought it pulled its punches in the finale, where a director of the calibre of Hitchcock might have gone for a much darker angle without a qualm.
But I’m nit-picking. This is an excellent thriller that also effectively drills into grief and bereavement (a warning for anyone struggling with this – especially via the “Big C”… you might want to give this one a miss… #Up). It also ironically highlights that whilst broadcasting by people has never been more prevelant, communication between family members is sometimes totally lacking.
Clearly people agree with me that it is excellent: the preview cinema audience I saw this with was buzzing afterwards, and this won the “Audience Award” at Sundance.
“Searching” will be on general release in the UK and US from August 31st 2018. Highly recommended!
Fad Rating: FFFFF.