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Review: Searching is bold and unnerving

John Cho stars as a father frantically searching for his daughter.
Photo courtesy of Cineman

Techno-thriller offers unique perspective

Aneesh Chaganty’s  Searching is a high-concept thriller that evokes human emotions to its core, reflecting on the mere fact that humans are too attached to their devices.

One night, Margot Kim (Michelle La) tells her dad, David, she is at a study group and it’s going to go late. The next day, David (John Cho) wakes up to find that his daughter never came home and thinks nothing of it. But David soon realizes that Margot is missing, causing him to begin a frantic search for her with local law enforcement.

Searching brings a new and unique perspective to the thriller genre. The movie unfolds strictly through a computer screen. With this fresh new perspective, the film reveals how during circumstances like a disappearance, people are too focused on the way they are perceived on social media and have become obsessed with the devices and media that they have lost their real-life presence to.   

In fact, Searching is so smartly made that it’s surprising just how basic the plot is. However, while the plot is simple, it is intentional. Chaganty purposely kept things uncomplicated because he wanted the message, that devices and appearances control people’s lives, to standout.

The angle with which Searching brings the audience into the movie keeps the viewer engaged with the story. The audience navigates alongside David as he tries to find his way through emails, online chat rooms, social media accounts, and text messages. There is no limit to what the audience is allowed to see, just as there are no limits for David. 

In other thrillers, the audience is only given information the movie wants them to know. There is no looking and searching for other clues without the characters intervening. In Searching, the audience is able to look around and focus on other aspects of what is on the computer screen. They aren’t given just one piece of evidence to disect, they are given every available clue, making it easy for them to investigate and give importance to any information they see fit.

This technique also amplifies the intrinsic emotion associated with high-stress situations, such as a missing persons case, because the audience is given nearly unrestricted access to private aspects of David and Margot’s life, allowing them to scrutinize the characters as a whole, something not usually done  in a film.    

Searching is an innovative and daring film that shouldn’t be missed. It will leave viewers breathless from its hard-hitting plot twists and inventive take on a classic mystery set-up while showing the viewer just how attached to technology and virtual realities modern society is—all within a single computer screen.

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