Searching Movie Review
Windows XP makes its triumphant return in a surprisingly good movie about the video sharing capabilities of Windows XP. And also about a desperate father who is amazingly adept at recording videos, resetting passwords and Facetiming but has never heard of Venmo or Tumblr using his non-hacking skills to track down his missing daughter.
Searching stars John Cho in one of the unique and riskiest thrillers you’ll see a year, a film where director and co-writer Aneesh Chaganty has the audacity to build an entire story set on the screen of a computer, designed primarily to remind us the natural and often lost wonder of screen savers.
What begins with a heart-searing montage displayed through a series of clicks, video and calendar reminders set against the once-revered Windows operating system that competes with Up for your digital tears turns into a surprisingly tense and elaborate mystery-thriller. Frankly, what Chaganty has done here is utterly impressive, taking a concept that sounds dull and horrible on the surface and realizing it an incredibly accessible and engaging experience that is easily one of the more entertaining movies of the year.
Searching isn’t without its issues that are unsurprisingly forced by the limits of a computer-based movie. When the plot inevitably shifts the focus beyond the confines of Cho’s home, Chaganty films a series of “breaking news” feeds that feel a little too on-the-nose, at one point evoking unintentional (but well-meaning) laughter from the audience. And the detective’s (Debra Messing) liberal use of FaceTime and text messages are a little convenient.
But in the scheme of things, those are minor annoyances that are easily justified.
Searching is supported by a great performance by John Cho, an actor who continues to linger just outside full stardom for no real apparent, or at least justifiable, reason. Cho commands every scene, not an easy feat given everything he does is through the prism of a webcam, and surprisingly—for a concept thriller—is given the opportunity to show his full range.
The movie deserves more plaudits, but some things are worth experiencing yourself.
Searching is a fantastically inventive thriller that defies the constraints of its medium. Cho is terrific, the movie superbly done. It won’t process for every type of viewer, but it’s one of the most unique films you’ll see all year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.