Searching

In Cinemas Now

He just missed his daughter's final call.

John Cho (Star Trek Beyond) is a father who breaks into his missing teenage daughter's laptop in order to discover the truth behind her disappearance in this thriller that takes place entirely on computer screens. This is the feature debut of Aneesh Chaganty, a former Google commercials creator.

Trailers

Awards

NEXT Audience Award, Sundance Film Festival

Directed by

Mystery, Thriller

101mins

Rating: M Drug references

USA

Official Site

So far the genre of movies set on computer screens is a shallow pool. Following on from Open Windows, Unfriended, and other curiosities, here’s one called Searching. It might sound like faint praise to say it’s the best of the form so far, but Searching works so well that its gimmick mostly disappears, and the style seems more like an inevitability of the way we live our lives online.

It’s a cracking mystery procedural, following John Cho as he races to find his missing daughter via internet sleuth work. The setting keeps adding novelties, and also provides some effective shorthand: you see everything Cho types out in his online conversations, including the things he second-guesses and deletes.

A movie that spends around 90% of its runtime honed on its protagonist’s face is a big ask for an actor, so it’s a good thing Cho is more than up to the scrutiny. He’s hugely likeable, and it’s good to see him getting these weightier roles later in his career. Deborah Messing is a more surprising choice, but she’s effective, playing against type somewhat as a dour police detective.

Searching definitely isn’t arthouse fare. It’s a broad crowd-pleaser, with some fairly corny emotional beats and an overly-assertive score. The runtime also risks sagging when the film squeezes in references to true crime shows and web culture. But when it’s orchestrating the central mystery it’s like a well-oiled thrill machine. Suckers for a good red herring will surely be pleased.

And let’s hope the overall quality of this one means good news for the future of the genre, because producer Timur Bekmambetov apparently has a whole slew of these ‘screen life’ films on the way. As Searching proves, the fledgling genre has an unexpected amount of potential.

Hollywood Reporter

press

Impressively, first-time filmmaker and former Google commercials creator Aneesh Chaganty has also made a real movie, the story of a family that morphs into a crime drama...

Variety (USA)

press

Cutting to the emotional core of what social media says about us, the result is as much a time capsule of our relationship to (and reliance upon) modern technology as it is a cutting-edge digital thriller.

Screen International

press

The movie's arresting visual conceit has enough flexibility to sustain interest, even if the story's twists and turns sometimes feel excessively fiendish.

Time Out New York

press

See it, then go home and wipe your hard drive.

Guardian (UK)

press

Chaganty’s tab-toggling is pacy enough, but he gets pedantic about tying up unfinished digital business, and Unfriended’s pulse-raising wildness is beyond him.

Empire (UK)

press

The smart visual trickery lifts what might otherwise have been a fairly conventional thriller, but it also lets Chaganty say some interesting things about our online lives.

FilmInk (Australia)

press

...speaks uncomfortable but necessary truths about the Internet age in a way that forces the audience to pay attention.

NewsHub (Kate Rodger)

press

There is a great little whodunit story buried within to keep us guessing, and the performances are perfectly pitched.

Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)

press

...one of the more interesting and technically impressive films of the year so far.

Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)

press

Virtually the entire story is told via screens large and small and, with Chaganty's sharp direction, it's a brilliant way of creating both an intimate, voyeuristic feel and generating tension for the audience.

The Sensation

This had to be one of the worst movies that I have ever watched. Where are the good movies?