SEARCHING is a mystery-thriller directed by Aneesh Chaganty and stars John Cho as David Kim – a father whose search for his missing 16-year-old daughter leads him into the digital world. Chaganty and the film have already gone on to win awards as it debuted at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. It won both the “Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize” and the “Best of Next!” Audience awards.
With the reviews and the buzz surrounding the film, hopes and expectations were high for SEARCHING; and after having been released for several weeks, critics and audiences agree that it does not disappoint. SEARCHING is very much the perfect example of “show, don’t tell” with its attention to detail and a technique that many other mystery films often fail to take advantage of, which occasionally leads to awkwardly placed scenes that are filled with exposition-heavy dialogue. The opposite holds true here as Chaganty found the perfect balance between atmosphere and delivery.
With a solid run-time of 1 hour and 42 minutes, Chaganty utilizes every single second to bring the audience a fresh experience as the entirety of the film takes place within the confines of digital screens. Although the concept of a movie taking place entirely on digital screens isn’t new (e.g. Unfriended & Unfriended: Dark Web), SEARCHING takes the concept to new heights and elevates that type of experience to another level. For instance, it takes full advantage of today’s technology-obsessed world by filling the film with scenes shown from MacBooks, iPhones, TVs, CCTVs, etc. One may think that such an incorporation of gadgets would come off as gimmicky and incessant, however their use only increases the intriguing nature of the script. And as Chaganty pulls you into the world with the enthralling, mysterious story, John Cho is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat with his brilliant portrayal of a desperate father at the end of his wits.
Perhaps one of the best surprises about SEARCHING is the amount of emotion. It opens with a montage of home video clips in which the Kim family is shown throughout the years. Soon after, an unexpected tragedy strikes, and the film quickly turns from a heartwarming tone to a dark and somber one. It’s an aspect that is likely to hit the audience hard because it’s a situation that no one wants to happen to their own family. The tragedy sets the tone for the rest of the movie, although there are strategic, sprinkled moments of comedy, most of which revolve around David Kim and his naivety when it comes to social media.
One of the best aspects of SEARCHING besides its attention to detail is the twists and turns. Throughout, Chaganty manages to slyly place those key details that slowly build up and contribute to said plot twists. The beauty of it all is that it’s not overdone, and audiences may find that watching this story unravel will be one of the greater cinema-going experiences for 2018.
And most of the positive experience from watching SEARCHING is because of John Cho. Cho has been in the acting business since 1997, and has recently had great success with the projects he’s chosen to be a part of such as The Exorcist TV series, Columbus and the Star Trek reboot films. But SEARCHING is Cho’s greatest project to date. He pulls you into David Kim’s world so quickly that you don’t even realize how influenced you are by all of the technology on screen, which is exactly what the character is experiencing. And Cho plays the role of the desperate and worried father so perfectly that audiences won’t help but feel a massive surge of stress for him and his situation.
In short, SEARCHING is an instant classic for the thriller and on-screen digital genre. Aneesh Chaganty fires on all fronts with this stunning directorial debut, and John Cho is masterful as ever which makes SEARCHING feel like it’s truly his element. The film is still in theaters for UK and US audiences. If you haven’t already done so, support this fantastic new thriller that’s equal parts suspenseful as it is emotional!