If everyone had the kind of wi-fi connection “Searching” enjoys, more crimes would be solved.
Showing his story unfold on cellphones, laptops, security cameras and YouTube videos, director Aneesh Chaganty makes screen time worthwhile – even when it’s devoted to fruitless snooping.
While some of Chaganty’s technique is a bit farfetched, it’s a nifty way of telling a missing person story.
Before it all unfolds, we see the relationship David Kim (John Cho) had with his late wife and, now, daughter Margot (Michelle La). She’s a piano pro who doesn’t return from a night with friends, prompting dad to start investigating.
Before long, he discovers Margot is missing and could be in danger. After filing a missing persons report, he begins searching on her laptop, discovering plenty of secrets that could lead him to people he never expected.
A detective (Debra Messing) is assigned the case, encouraging him to share every bit of information he finds.
Naturally, a determined dad can turn up plenty. He creates a spreadsheet with every person remotely associated with Margot.
He gets help from his brother (Joseph Lee), too, and comes up with information even a DNA expert couldn’t produce.
Cho is great, considering we see him mainly in Facetime conversations. Messing is more subdued (any number of actresses could have done a better job), but she provides a willing ear whenever he needs to share details.
Because Chaganty needs to provide background (on more subjects than you’d think possible), “Searching” is a deep dive into using the internet to maximum potential.
Showing some scenes from security cameras stretches a bit, but when he dips into online comments the director gets the kind of dimension a story like this needs.
While other films (most notably “Blair Witch Project”) have used a similar framework, none stretches the bounds quite like this one.
When dad gets online, he immediately finds what he’s seeking. He uncovers connections, too, and, as a good as the superhighway may be, he has to rely on his own discerning skills to finally go where investigators haven’t.
“Searching” zips by, largely because Chaganty, a former Google commercial maker, mines every mode of new media to tell his story. The visuals are clearer than you might find on actual screens (those Facetime moments need more lag and freeze to be credible) but they get out of the way once the story starts rolling.