Cast: John Cho, Michelle La, Debra Messing, Sara Sohn
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: After David Kim (John Cho)’s 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a local investigation is opened and a detective 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.
After a plethora of movies that have come out surrounded by using social media to solve mysteries, very few of them have ever been made at a competitive level. Based on history alone, that would lead me to believe that Searching would follow the same structure and up as a mediocre or below-average movie. Fortunately, Searching was made by competent people, so all of the issues that usually plague these movies are not present in this film. When you spend your time developing the story and giving us characters that we can empathize with, you end up creating a world and a movie that far surpasses other films within the subgenre.
The film follows David Kim (Cho), a father whose daughter Margot (La) has gone missing after a night of studying with classmates. After working with Detective Rosemary Vicks (Messing), the two discover details about Margot that makes David question the relationship he has with Margot and if he truly knew her at all. The thing that makes this movie stand out compared to other movies that are similar to it is the way the story progresses. At no point did I think I had the story correctly figured out, and every time a diversion was placed in the story, I fell for it flawlessly. Usually these are moments that after seeing many movies over the course of my life, I can pick out pretty effortlessly. The fact that I fell for pretty much every single moment that was intended to throw us off is a testament to just how well-written and directed this movie is. Outside of the story, this is one of the first movies to correctly use social media to investigate the issues that the characters are going to. To everyone involved in films like Unfriended and Truth or Dare, take note; this is how you use technology to amplify your story. Social media is not used to explain the story, but rather to help provide context to an already fully developed plotline. If a movie has to rely on social media telling us the background of a story more than halfway through a movie, then it has failed at developing a competent plotline. Searching avoids this pitfall by showing us the story first and building up the characters before using social media to help them on their journey. On top of this, the film also shows us how minor characters use social media to further their own agendas contradictory to those of David’s. After Margot goes missing and the case starts getting larger news attention, people who admittedly were not close to Margot go to social media and make the claim that they were actually very close for the sake of getting clicks and likes on their various platforms. These were some of the most realistic scenes in the movie, as people twist tragedy for their own benefit constantly, so good on the movie for addressing this subject in an accurate yet effective way. The only issue I think the film has is that the ending feels very rushed and coincidental. After the movie spends most of its 102 minute runtime building up a thrilling, thought-provoking plot, the film’s third act feels very forced and out of nowhere. This is unfortunate, as the transition from one part of the story to the other was necessary, but I felt as though there might have been a better way to show us this connection.
Overall, Searching is an original, creative movie that will hopefully shift the way social media is used in movies moving forward. Cho has come a long way since his days in the Harold & Kumar movies and has shown us that he is more than capable of handling himself in the lead role of a dramatic film. These are the types of films that I ask that Hollywood make more of, and this one of the opportunities they took and truly delivered.
Overall Score: 8/10