Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: Drug references
John Cho as David Kim
Debra Messing as Detective Rosemary Vick
Michelle La as Margot Kim
Sara Sohn as Pamela Nam Kim
Joseph Lee as Peter Kim
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
David Kim (John Cho) becomes desperate when his 16-year-old daughter Margot (Michelle La) disappears and an immediate police investigation leads nowhere. He soon decides to search the one place that no one else has — Margot’s laptop. Hoping to trace her digital footprints, David contacts her friends and looks at photos and videos for any possible clues to her whereabouts.
Searching is a movie I heard some buzz about for some time, a movie that takes place entirely on a computer like Unfriended that’s about John Cho trying to find his missing daughter. While that sounds like it end up being a gimmicky movie, it actually wasn’t bad, in fact it was really good. Searching has a familiar premise but it executed very well and is led by an incredible performance by John Cho.
The movie is about an hour and 40 minutes long and from start to finish I was pretty invested. Searching isn’t the first movie to have the film take place entirely on a computer, Unfriended did this as well. Searching unlike Unfriended isn’t a horror movie, but it can still be very suspenseful. It’s not like you’re not expecting someone to come up behind an unsuspecting John Cho or anything, it’s more that you’re not really expecting what new piece of evidence that we’re going to find out about his daughter. This is especially the fact when Cho finds out that her daughter really wasn’t quite how she seemed to him. It also did a good job at portraying how people would react to a disappearing person, while the way it was done in terms of storytelling is out of place (which I’ll mention later), they did a good job with that aspect. Usually with these kinds of stories, you can predict pretty much where everything is going to go and what beats it was going to go through. However if I did predict certain things here, I had to have gotten through a significant amount of the way through the movie before I did so. One of the detracting elements to the movie was the ending. I can’t exactly say how it ends but I can say that while direction-wise I like the twist, it feels like so many things are resolved incredibly quickly. There also was an aspect that was a little convenient and hard to buy, not really realistic considering the rest of the movie Also they use a news report as a way of summarising a lot of what happened, and as you’ll read later on, that really took away from the movie. On the whole I like the direction of the ending, just not so much the execution of it.
While there are a number of people in the movie, whether they’re on screen or as voices, but really most of the movie is John Cho on a screen. I’m only familiar with John Cho from his role as Sulu in Star Trek and I know that he’s heavily involved with comedy, however he gives a really great dramatic and fantastic performance here as a father trying to find out what happened to his daughter. He just exudes desperation, which increases as he continually meets dead ends and finds out things about his daughter that he didn’t know before. There are also some more quiet moments when he doesn’t say anything, there’s nothing showy about his performance, it feels very real. The same goes for the other actors, including Debra Messing as the detective assigned to the case, Michelle La as John Cho’s daughter and Joseph Lee as Cho’s brother.
As previously mentioned, Searching isn’t the first movie to take place on a computer but it still did it pretty well. The way that Searching is directed is why it works so well. Sometimes John Cho isn’t on screen and yet the things that are typed, the pausing, all of that is very effective visual storytelling, especially for showing what John Cho is thinking in those moments. The editing on the whole was done really well, very efficient and stylistic yet not too overblown. Now in terms of realism, it mostly feels realistic, despite some moments when people wouldn’t necessarily be having their screens on in some of the situations (though those moments don’t happen too much). Also there are times when it cuts to news footage and while it is seen on a computer, it’s not being seen by John Cho on a computer looking at said news footage, so it feels an out of place way for them to get major events and exposition out there since they aren’t able to do that with a computer or phone. The whole ‘taking place entirely on a computer’ thing seemed to be a double edged sword. There isn’t a bunch of pounding dramatic music and is used minimally but it was really effective, giving off a really unsettling vibe like just like the rest of the movie.
Searching is a effectively suspenseful film, well deserving of all the praise it’s been getting. Despite a shakily executed ending, with the direction and storytelling mixed with John Cho’s fantastic performance, it’s really good and well worth the watch.