Original, unpredictable & always one step ahead of the audience, Searching is one of the best cinematic surprises of the year. An utterly captivating & downright thrilling mystery that approaches its subject matter in a very fresh, clever & unique fashion to deliver an edge-of-the-seat experience that keeps the viewers guessing at all times, the film also benefits from the fully fleshed characters who are expertly rendered by its committed cast.
The story of Searching concerns the father of a 16-year old girl and is set into motion when she goes missing one day. After contacting the local police, a detective is assigned to the case but when the investigation leads to no new insights, the desperate father breaks into his daughter’s social media accounts to look for any clues that may provide information regarding her current whereabouts and must trace her digital footprints before she disappears forever.
Co-written & directed by Aneesh Chaganty in what’s actually his directorial debut, the entire story is told through the screens of smartphones, laptops & surveillance cameras and although this visual presentation may seem like a gimmick at first, it only works out in the film’s favour as it brings the audience’s intuition into play, and compels them to connect the dots & solve the puzzle on their own while the unforeseen twists waiting on every corner keeps challenging their whole perception.
The polished screenplay is another winner, packing an ingeniously structured plot that keeps the suspense alive by introducing new conflicts every few minutes, not to mention that there isn’t one unexpected turn that feels out of place in this nail-biting portrait of every parent’s worst nightmare. Characters are believable, exhibit sufficient depth & have well-rounded arcs, which makes it real easy for us to invest in them and relate to their predicaments. The writers also make sure the narrative flow is smooth throughout and every event is accounted for.
The visual presentation here may not be the first of its kind but Searching explores this narrative tool to its full potential. The technological angle would be a gimmick if the script wasn’t properly refined and the emotional beats weren’t spot-on. But since the foundation is strong, core ingredients are aptly executed, and emphasis is on story & characters, this distinctive storytelling method comes off as refreshing & immersive. Another aspect that stands out is the tight editing that steadily escalates the tension to nerve-wracking levels and unfolds the events at a brisk pace.
The cast includes John Cho as the father, Debra Messing as the detective assigned to the case, and Michelle La as the missing daughter, and they all deliver strong performances in their respective roles. The characters are written so well that the actors are provided with ample material and a solid enough platform to build their act upon, and they do a splendid job at bringing these scripted figures to life with authenticity. The desperation & agony in Cho’s performance and the melancholy in La’s eyes leaves a lasting impression, but Messing is no slouch in her supporting role either.
On an overall scale, Searching is an intelligently crafted, skilfully layered & masterly executed mystery thriller that commences director Aneesh Chaganty’s filmmaking journey on a spectacular note, and is undeniably amongst the finest offerings of 2018. A high-quality orgy of twists n turns that’s accomplished on storytelling & technical scales, this hyper-modern thriller promises an endlessly riveting & thoroughly satisfying ride and effortlessly delivers it by making effective use of available resources. Catapulted to better heights by its inventive narration, slick editing & terrific performances, Searching is a fitting thriller for the digital age, and is absolutely worth your time & money. Highly recommended.