Review by Bradley Smith
Searching for a great mystery thriller told entirely threw computer screens? Your search is over. Search no further. Searching is just such a movie, full of suspense and twists to keep you on the edge of your seat until the computer shuts down.
The plot is classic and simple yet complex. A girl, Margot (newcomer Michelle La) goes missing and, while trying to find her with the assistance of Detective Vick (Debra Messing) and others, her dad, David Kim (John Cho) learns he doesn’t know her as well as he thought (“she was gone long before she physically went missing” as John Cho put it on Live With Kelly and Ryan).
What raises the uniqueness of this film is the storytelling method. It is told entirely through computer screens, like the horror film Unfriended or Lisa Kudrow’s Web Therapy. Characters interact through video chats (or via phone with the computer camera still on) and the plot advances with digital pictures, YouTube videos, social media posts, news articles, and other familiar computer programs.
It was amusing when the movie started at the screening that I attended because I don’t think some of the audience knew about the gimmick. The film opens with a shot of an old Windows program and some in the audience started chuckling and chatting like there was a problem with the film. They soon quieted back down when the cursor moved, created a “new user” and started a montage that reminded me of the first 10 minutes of Up, but with a daughter.
The use of real computer programs and websites make the drama and tension more real and believable. While some movies would make up fictional variations of the real stuff (i.e. Facespace), this film uses Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, tumblr, and a few that I had not heard of, but have since learned are real things.
In hindsight, the clues to the overall mystery are well placed; subtle and easy to miss since they are not the focus of their scenes. Some of the revelations are a bit drawn out as two images, one previously seen clue and a new image, are slowly put side by side. And, like any good mystery, the movie effectively throws in some red herrings to distract the audience and extend the drama.
I loved the film for the realistic storytelling style, the acting, and the plot twists. The outcomes for some of the characters may not be the most desirable, but I would still highly recommend searching for a theater that is playing Searching.