Now Showing: Searching

Now Showing: Searching

First there was the “found footage” genre, popularized by films such as “The Blair Witch Project.” Now, the rise of smartphones and social media has allowed for the creation of a similar kind of film, but with a modern spin. Told through the lense of various digital screens, “Searching” will surely engage audiences with its creative structure.

The film centers around David Kim (John Cho), as he searches for his missing daughter, Margot (Michelle La). With the help of Det. Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing), Kim looks for clues on Margot’s laptop to determine what happened on the night of her disappearance.

The plot of the film is exciting and will keep viewers on the edge of their seats, although some of the twists are predictable. Furthermore, the film relies on several plot coincidences, and the film’s resolution felt rushed, as if all the pieces still didn’t quite fit together.

While the concept of telling a story through social media sites and text messages might seem like a recipe for a disastrous “Emoji Movie” relapse, director Aneesh Chaganty is clever in how he incorporates different forms of online communication to appeal to the emotions of the viewer.

For example, the first five minutes minutes of the film tell the story of Kim’s wife as she battles with cancer, through a series of home videos, Google searches and emails. Though this format might seem like it would cause an emotional disconnect, the opening is beautifully laid out and resembles the beginning of Pixar’s “Up.” Seeing everything unfold via screen allows the audience to view the film from the eyes of Kim, making the story more intimate.

Though the style of the film was well thought out, it did become difficult to watch at certain points. To keep the video chat and security camera scenes looking realistic, the quality of the footage is not as sharp as a traditional film would be. While this is understandable given the theme of the film, the poor quality shots sometimes took away from the suspense factor of certain scenes.

“Searching” should be commended for being the first Hollywood thriller with an Asian-American lead, but even more so for keeping this from being an important part of the film. Unlike other mainstream films with Asian characters, even films like the recent “Crazy Rich Asians” that are praised for their diversity,  “Searching” does not play off of Asian stereotypes or rely on the race of its main characters. This is a hopeful sign that Hollywood will start casting more Asians not just to fill a diversity quota, but because of the sheer talent of the actors.

And if any director is looking for an Asian actor who can hold his own in a major role, John Cho (Sulu in the “Star Trek” films)  proved to be a capable choice. As much of the story is told through video chat apps, Cho often had a camera directly in his face. This meant that he had nowhere to hide and had to rely on subtle facial acting to draw in the audience. He does not disappoint; whether he is looking through old family videos or talking desperately to Det. Vicks about new evidence, every shot of him is convincing and expressive.

Overall, “Searching” makes up for its plot holes with its inventive mode of storytelling and impressive acting, and will have no problem in its search for an audience.