Searching is the feature debut of director Aneesh Chaganty, a former Google employee who left the company to pursue his dream career as a movie director. It’s shot entirely through the point-of-view of smartphones and computer screens. This style could have come off as gimmicky, but it doesn’t feel that way at all. Instead, Searching ends up being a very well done, well acted, edge of your seat thriller.
The film begins with David Kim (John Cho) looking through past pictures and videos of his daughter Margot and his late wife Pamela, who died of cancer. David and Margot’s relationship has become more distant since Pamela’s death. On a Thursday night, Margot picks up a FaceTime call from her dad, tells him she’s at a friend’s house for study group, and says she might be there all night. Later that night while David is sleeping, Margot calls him three times. He sees the missed calls in the morning, thinks it’s a bit odd, but assumes she must be at school and then later at her weekly Friday afternoon piano lesson.He becomes a bit concerned after repeatedly not hearing back from her and decides to call her piano teacher. When he reaches the teacher who tells him that Margot quit piano six months ago, real concern starts to set in. David discovers that she put the money he gave her for piano lessons each week into her bank account and transferred $2,500 to a Venmo account that is now deleted. He reports her missing to the police and is assigned to Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing), who tells David it will be helpful if he can give her more information regarding Margot’s behavior.
From here, the film really takes off and doesn’t slow down until it ends. David begins digging into Margot’s life through her computer, realizing he doesn’t know much about her these days and discovering lots of information from his research. There are twists and turns along the way, and I was glued to the screen every second trying to guess where the story was heading.
The way the film is shot takes a few minutes to get used to, but once you do you’re right there in it. I was very impressed that such a gripping story was able to be told in this format. It also helps that the story is well thought out and really delivers on all levels.Another interesting fact about the film is that it’s the first mainstream thriller to have an Asian-American actor as its lead. John Cho does an amazing job as David. This character really gives him the chance to dive into a meatier role and it’s something he hasn’t really done before. Cho is in pretty much every scene of the film, and his performance is what gets you utterly invested in this mystery. You feel for him and the emotions he’s dealing with while trying to figure out what has happened to his daughter. I’ve always been a fan of Cho, and I’m happy he got a leading role like this because it proves he has the acting chops for it. The supporting cast is great too and all enhance the intense story unfolding in front of us.
Searching is an immensely satisfying entry into the thriller genre. It has a timely concept and a great plot that’s cleverly executed by Chaganty and flawlessly acted by Cho. We need original thrillers like this more often! I highly recommend it.