Starring: John Cho, Michelle La, Debra Messing
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Running Time: 102 mins
Searching is an American film about a father who desperately searches for clues on his daughter’s laptop after she goes missing one evening without explanation.
Using a still unique visual premise, Searching is undoubtedly a striking watch, but on top of that, it features a thoroughly engrossing and unpredictable thriller story, complete with genuine emotional depth and riveting characters, and even though it all may take place on a computer desktop, there’s no doubting that this film rivals many of its more orthodox competitors when it comes to providing thrills and intrigue throughout.
The first thing to note about Searching is of course its setting, that being the desktop of a computer. In similar fashion to horror thriller Unfriended, the film takes place entirely on a computer screen, with webcams being used to see the characters in the real world, while a wide variety of windows and programmes all play a role in the development of the wider story.
As it’s a style that’s only really been seen once before, Searching still feels very fresh in its use of the desktop setting, and while it’s not quite as inventive or playful as Unfriended in using it, this film proves that the medium can be used in more grounded, realistic spheres, rather than just in the ridiculous thrills of teen horror.
So, director Aneesh Chaganty does a fantastic job at utilising this burgeoning filmmaking style to create a comprehensive and solid film that pays just as much attention to story detail and character depth as it does creativity in how to portray real world events entirely through a computer screen.
That’s what really surprised me about this film, just how grounded and engrossing it felt as a crime thriller, despite the seeming obstacle of its main visual premise. While it’s not an entirely fluid thriller throughout, occasionally suffering from iffy pacing and jarring transitions that are a natural consequence of the visual medium used, the movie still feels just like a normal Hollywood thriller, which is a brilliant achievement given how different the presentation is.
From beginning to end, the film follows a riveting and thoroughly unpredictable story, with elements of Gone Girl and other classic modern thrillers mixed in throughout, all providing an undeniably entertaining watch that keeps you gripped with cleverly-timed plot twists and revelations throughout, making use of a strong screenplay to make for a genuinely enthralling watch.
Beyond simply being an exciting thriller, though, Searching excels in an area where so many other films of the same genre have failed, that is portraying genuine character depth and emotion. Most notably centring around the story’s main character, a father who becomes increasingly desperate and distressed as he tries to find clues leading to his daughter’s whereabouts, the movie allows you to really connect with the characters and situation on screen, something that adds to the stakes of the thriller plot, and simply makes for a more engrossing watch throughout.
Overall, then, I was really rather impressed by Searching. Not only does it cleverly and effectively use a still-novel filmmaking style, but it also proves a thoroughly engrossing watch beyond that ‘gimmick’, seriously rivalling other mystery thrillers with its dramatic intrigue and emotional depth, all of which comes together to keep you absolutely hooked from beginning to end, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.