Friday, August 31, 2018

Searching - Review

In a strange and completely unpredictable outcome, the found footage sub-genre has evolved beyond its shaky origins in the woods of Maryland during The Blair Witch Project. Exchanging shadowy figures in grainy video for a film set inside a computer screen doesn’t sound like an upgrade on paper, but Searching proves that this new gimmick is here to stay, and we might just get a few good films out of it. 

After David Kim’s (John Cho) 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a local investigation is opened and a detective (Debra Messing) is assigned to the case. But 37 hours later and without a single lead, David decides to search the one place no one has looked yet, where all secrets are kept today: his daughter's laptop. In a hyper-modern thriller told via the technology devices we use every day to communicate, David must trace his daughter's digital footprints before she disappears forever.

Searching uses this new-fangled filming technique in tremendous fashion. By presenting the story in a somewhat limited perspective, it allows the audience to attempt to solve the mystery alongside the characters. This element provides for added tension, giving only the limited information that the character of David Kim knows with each passing second. 

Even with solidly executed tension, Searching would stumble without a pair of performances. Debra Messing gets some emotional moments throughout her aid of Cho’s David Kim, but the true standout has to be Cho himself. Due to the format, Cho is forced to be on screen for a majority of the film in some fashion, and thus his spiral into despair and desperation is on full display. Cho falls further and further down as the realization of his reality sets in as the mystery unfolds.

Through an establishment of the digital trail that 16-year-old Margot Kim, played by Michelle La, the film presents unexplainable pieces to a seemingly unsolvable puzzle. The bizarre nature of discovering a loved one’s secret life only contributes fuel for the paranoia that is John Cho’s already damaged emotional state. The third act twist that eventually takes place is effective as well, using the key instances of confusion to craft the story of what really happened to Margot Kim.

Searching is a surprisingly well-executed and suspenseful thriller. While the computer screen presentation may be a gimmick to some, the film uses it to elevate the material to new heights. Cho is brilliant as the desperate father who just wants his daughter back, and really grounds the film. If this is the new trend in suspense and horror, Searching provides the blueprint for how to do it right. 

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