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MOVIE REVIEW: “Searching” Is An Intriguing, Finely-Tuned Thriller That Will Leave You Breathless

Taking cue from 2015’s horror hit “Unfriended”, this mystery thriller ala-David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” is an hour and 42 minutes worth of mind-boggling twists and heartfelt family drama.

In Columbia Pictures’ “Searching”, 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 device we use every day to communicate, David must trace his daughter’s digital footprints before she disappears forever. “Searching” stars John Cho (“Star Trek”, “Harold & Kumar”), Debra Messing (“Will & Grace”), Joseph Lee and Michelle La.

It is directed by Aneesh Chaganty, written by Chaganty and Sev Ohanian and produced by Timur Bekmambetov (“Unfriended”). “Searching” is a Screen Gems and Stage 6 Films presentation in association with Bazelevs, a Timur Bekmambetov production.

At first glance, “Searching” might seem to be just a longer episode of the techno thriller series “Black Mirror”. But once the first window on the Kim’s family desktop computer is opened, it reveals itself to be one of this year’s most ambitious and engrossing thrillers. Imagine “Unfriended” meets “Gone Girl”, this inventive mix of technology, Hitchcockian twists, red herrings and parental nightmares forms a solid, entertaining cinematic experience.

What makes “Searching” way better though than past films that used this form of storytelling like Timur Bekmambetov’s 2015 hit “Unfriended” and the earlier Spanish thriller “Open Windows” back in 2014 is that aside from its unexpected twists and turns, it comes with a beating heart. Right from the very beginning of the film, we witness a touching montage of how the Kim family began, as we surf through video chats, calendar entries, home movies shot on phones and text messages that tell the story of the birth of Margot Kim, the happy early years and the darker days to follow.

Reminiscent of the opening montage in the 2009 Disney film “Up”, this poignant prologue to the Kim’s family story immediately moved me to tears with its heartwarming story that is already a mini-movie itself. The perfectly choreographed introduction is what attaches us to the characters of David and his daughter Margot, hoping that somehow, by the end of the film, they’ll see a happy ending.

Fans of mystery thrillers will definitely get their money’s worth with “Searching”. Despite looking all too gimmicky with its use of computer screens, live stream videos and social media, the film is a finely-tuned thriller that will turn even non-fans of the genre into detectives themselves, looking for clues and digital footprints from every open browser window, video calls, chat boxes and text messages.

Chaganty and Sev Ohanian made excellent use of these small screen devices and turned them into cinematic canvas, while putting multiple red herrings and hints, throwing viewers into a conundrum. What audiences will really love also in “Searching” is its unexpected twists and turns. It’s a mystery with different layers, and as each layer is peeled off, audiences’ guesses of what really happened to Margot kept on changing.

The revelations just kept on coming and it was astonishing, as things were not the way that I expected them to be.

John Cho also makes history as the first Asian actor to lead a mainstream Hollywood thriller film as he plays David Kim. Despite the challenges of the format used in the film, Cho caught our hearts with his emotionally charged performance in the film. With most of the movie showing him facing a video camera, we get to focus on his emotions as he goes through this parental nightmare, starting from worrying about the whereabouts of Margot until his composure eventually breaks down while trying to find any clue that will lead him into finding his daughter. Debra Messing also deserves some praise for her believable portrayal of the very competent and helpful Detective Rosemary Vick, the detective assigned to Margot’s case.

This highly engaging mystery thriller is undeniably one of the best I’ve seen this year. Unlike most films of its genre, it has this solid foundation of emotional attachment of the audiences to the characters, making us root for David and Margot. We sit through days’ worth of video blogs and internet posts, hoping that David will find a way to get his daughter back alive. We are drawn deeply into this heart-stopping mystery and we never let go until we find out the truth behind her disappearance.

This, mixed with its mind-boggling mystery and intoxicating suspense is what makes “Searching” an intriguing, finely-tuned thriller that will leave you breathless.


5 – Excellent
4 – Very Good
3 – Good
2 – Tolerable
1 – Terrible

Start “Searching” for the truth in Philippine cinemas this September 19, 2018, distributed by Columbia Pictures.

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