Seems like my last few reviews have all been fairly scathing. So I thought I’d post a rare positive review for once. Caught Searching on demand recently and was pretty blown away. I expected Unfriended but ended up with something more akin to Up meets The Vanishing.
John Cho has been quietly building an interesting film (& television) career in his life after Harold & Kumar. I’ve found him to be one of the more interesting aspects of the wildly inconsistent Star Trek reboot and its sequels. He’s done great guest arcs on Sleepy Hollow, Difficult People & The Exorcist and with no less than 6 projects on the horizon for 2019, he really seems to be building steam in a big way right now.
So it should come as no surprise that he nearly single-handedly carries Searching and carries it well. If you aren’t familiar with the conceit of the film, John Cho plays a concerned dad searching his daughter’s laptop and the internet for clues regarding her recent disappearance. And in doing so, learns some hard truths regarding just how very little he really knows about his daughter. Debra Messing receives a fair amount of screen time as the cop assigned to his missing persons case, but the whole of it is all told from his computer screen, hence the title. If it sounds like an ad for Google or Microsoft, you’d be right. But only at first. You get used to it and after awhile you begin to feel like you’re not just a passive audience, but are in the shoes of a terrified father trying desperately to track down and information he can that might lead to his daughter being found.
So that’s the aspect of Searching most like The Vanishing. But I also mentioned Up. It may sound crazy if you haven’t seen Searching, but the first 20 minutes or so of the film are reminiscent of the opening of Up, where we learn through the single most efficient and effective 5 minute montage in all of filmdom, the entire history of the main character’s relationship with his wife, from joyful vows til death do them part. And that’s all I’ll say about that.
Searching is equal parts clever and emotionally moving and a large part of its overall effectiveness is John Cho’s performance. I’m reluctant to say anymore. You should go into it with as clean a slate as possible. It’s a great little thriller who’s central, shall we say gimmick (which isn’t really fair) is not only motivated, but executed with real style and heart. Were I Siskel &/or Ebert (or even Richard Roeper), here is where I’d say, “Two thumbs up.”