When it was announced that Sony were producing a thriller film shot entirely on phone and laptop screens, I was initially skeptical. It seemed to be a gimmick that was being used as the next level of ‘found footage’ movies, like ‘The Blair Witch Project’ and ‘Cloverfield’. How wrong I was, because this unique premise has been perfectly executed. Not since Gone Girl has there been such a deviously gripping thriller.
The synopsis is every parent’s worst nightmare. Without detailing any plot points, the premise of Searching is that David Kim’s daughter suddenly stops answering his phone calls, and things escalate from there. That’s all that can be said before spoilers begin to rear their heads. It is a truly unique film, shot entirely from the point of view of phone and laptop screens. It shows the powers of the internet and modern technology, but also highlights just how dangerous it can be. Everything is permanent, people aren’t always who they say and nothing is ever black and white.
This method of filmmaking is fantastically original and perfectly done. The technology is known to everyone so the tiniest details had to be replicated for realism, and this is what the filmmakers have done. When Skype calling, the pictures are pixilated, the signal jolty. When typing messages, the text will begin, then be deleted and retyped as the characters rethink their words. Admittedly, sometimes the film played on the computer screen idea too much, highlighting important words to ensure the viewers saw them. I felt this was unneeded and could have begun to ruin the realism, but luckily this was not done too much. Overall, this new method of storytelling is a remarkable achievement and it almost felt like you were watching real events play out.
A truly gripping and intense story develops over the film, with twists and turns keeping the pace up. John Cho is outstanding in the lead role, an actor who has been criminally underrated for many years (and who you might know for starring as Sulu in the Star Trek reboots, and for starring in American Pie as “MILF Guy No. 2). In fact, Cho is the first Asian-American actor in history to headline a mainstream Hollywood thriller film. His character has a great intensity, and his very natural performance is thrilling to watch. Director Aneesh Chaganty has done a remarkable job of ensuring the tension and suspense is held throughout the film, with music by Torin Borrowdale adding to the dark intensity.
Overall this film is a triumph. The story is brilliantly gripping and moving, and the unique premise has been perfectly executed.