3 (out of 4)
John Cho's dramatic flexibility has been interesting to watch unfold – White Castle days far behind him, he becomes the first ever Asian American to headline a Hollywood feature in Searching. Cho spearheads the digitally-inclined drama Searching from first-time director Aneesh Chaganty in a noble debut following a slew of short films.
Unlike the offshoot of found footage features that have capitalized upon the omnipresence of technology in the 2010s – Paranormal Activity 4, the Unfriended films – this movie far exceeds the cheap gimmicks of cyber-minded horror. The facets of its visual storytelling format are not only effective but integral to the exceptional energy of this brisk, pulpy thriller.
The story of Searching affords considerably more than you could bargain for. Chaganty's work might have easily have settled for exploiting Gen Z's ability to exist separate from their actual selves through the instant connectivity of social media and electronic devices. But this is not a simple tale of a dad coming to grips with the taciturn mischief of his missing teenage daughter – Searching is a devilishly twisty, classically constructed mystery chock full of red herrings, rejuvenating revelations and plot turns of escalating intrigue. It won’t quite blow your mind but this cybernated paperback novel of sorts is persistently and appropriately captivating.
With Apple accessories abound, the blatant product placement is sure to be annoying if not distracting if the powerhouse brand isn't your technological go-to. Still, Searching's optic content isn't just logos and internet browsing – the taut editing interlinks desktop displays with FaceTime, security camera footage and television broadcasts to avoid any meandering one might expect from so modest a premise and framework. The scoring by Torin Borrowdale is also an understated asset, humming with morose piano melodies and propulsive electronic clicks – the slinking compositions are able to turn something as mundane as password verification into an absorbing process.
The film has a little too much to explain by its conclusion but Searching barely falters on its path to eagerly entertain – and Chaganty has little trouble in quietly hitting every emotional mark along the way.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
and A Star Is Born
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