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“Searching” Review

By: Dakota Gordon

Many presentations have been employed in the history of film: Black-and-white in the modern era, stop-motion animation, an entire film on an iPhone, etc. What else could be done in this current era of technological advancement, where almost every aspect of daily life involves an electronic in some capacity?

Making a movie that never leaves a computer screen.

That’s pretty neat.

Searching is a suspense/thriller, starring John Cho and Debra Messing, that involves the mysterious disappearance of a normal man’s daughter, documented through the web browsers and desktop folders that occupy certain screens. The movement of a mouse cursor documents everything in the movie, while instant messengers and web searches progress the plot of the film. The characters are never directly shown unless they turn on their cameras, whether with Skype’s facetime app or the cameras of smartphones. It is the distinct shtick of the film that’s handled fairly well within the film’s universe, with plausibility being solid throughout.

There were certain moments within the film where I felt the acting was a little off, particularly near the beginning when Cho’s character was beginning to piece things together that his daughter had gone missing. It felt almost arranged in a certain way, based on the formulas of the genre, with Cho simply doing his best impression of an impression. Messing also had her part in doing everything she could to appear as plastic as possible, though her performance had more of a motivation behind it. While not bad, the acting felt passable if anything else.

The story was something that was easy to get behind, and the shtick of having everything be from the perspective of a computer screen gave the film a more intimate touch. There were, however, parts of the story I found to be predictable, including the most integral part of the story. Little hints of foreshadowing are sprinkled throughout the piece in ways one may not expect in passing, though once the evidence begins to create the picture, one can see the full picture rather early on. The ending also leaves me a little conflicted—if only as a matter of personal preference. There’s a certain abruptness to it that almost undermines whatever point the film may be trying to make (technology is only a minor factor, surprisingly).

To its credit, Searching is a film that definitely gets by through use of its creativity as a film experience and the immersive, enjoyable quality of its pacing and narrative whimsy. My eyes barely left the screen in the ninety-five minutes it took to watch this film, as its mysterious intrigue is more than enough to keep one interested. Its downfall comes in the form of its decision-making and lack of a focal point that all of this could really amount to. It’s an entertaining, if not slightly impactful film that receives an extra boost for its unique style. I’d be willing to recommend it to those who want to see something somewhat standard presented in a new way, with a little wholesomeness to boot (perhaps too forcefully).

Final Score: 7/10

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