REVIEW: Cho’s performance, effective storytelling create a fantastic thriller in ‘Searching’

Talk about dad reflexes. John Cho’s character is definitely Father of the Year material in this flick.

Cho plays David in “Searching,” a single father raising his teenage daughter Magot (Michelle La). While he is a caring dad, though, the father-daughter relationship has been strained, since the death of David’s wife Pam (Sara Sohn).

Any argument over the small things in life go away quickly, though, when Margot disappears and becomes a missing person. While the local police department begins a thorough investigation into Margot’s status, David relentlessly continues to do research on his own to find his daughter.

One of the most surprising parts of “Searching” is its opening. The film begins with a montage, showcasing the marriage of David and Pam, raising Margot and Pam’s battle with cancer. It’s a segment that is reminiscent of the opening montage to the 2009 film “Up” because of how emotional it is.

As a result of this effective hook, the mystery at the center of “Searching” becomes instantly engaging. It’s not just because there’s the unknown factor where a person wants to know what happens next, it’s also because as an audience, we are invested in these characters very early on.

The way the mystery unravels is also quite entertaining. Not only is David’s search through clues intriguing, but as the situation develops, the film also takes a clever look at societal reactions to these types of happenings.

Powering the lead character’s effort in the search is Cho himself. He gives this performance all he’s got and it pays off in a big way. His display of the character’s worry, frustration and anxiety over the situation are all on point and very believable, pulling the audience even more into the situation.

This is his movie, too, as he easily has the most screen time. As a result, we share David’s hope to find Margot and his grief over the agonizing process. Credit also has to go to the rest of the cast, though. While not having as much screen time as Cho, they make the most out of their sequences.

The biggest factor of the movie that makes it different from other mystery movies is of course its format. Like the 2015 picture “Unfriended,” “Searching” is presented all through a computer screen. Through the entire run time, the audience sees chat logs, social media websites, news reports and webcam footage of the characters to tell the story.

This is a format that’s still coming into its own and hasn’t exactly been perfected yet. Because of this, the format both helps and hinders the overall production. The ability to hide, or cleverly reveal clues through the use of this format by showing different messages and photos adds to the suspense and intrigue to the mystery as a whole.

At the same time, though, there were moments when this format took me out of the film. So much of the movie features text messages and other social media content, and because that’s all we as an audience is seeing, the fact that it was manufactured for the screen is a bit more present.

Director Aneesh Chaganty and the crew deserve credit for crafting a cohesive and well made feature. However, this format still has some things to work out, as it still feels inauthentic at times.

“Searching” is a solid film, though, and one of the better pictures released this year. 4.25 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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