Searching

It almost seems wrong to watch Searching on the big screen, since the entire film takes place on a computer desktop, in the form of FaceTime windows, YouTube videos, and so forth. It's a gimmick that has already been explored in a number of thrillers and horror flicks such asĀ Open Windows and Unfriended, the latter of which was produced by Searching producer (and Russian blockbuster director) Timur Bekmambetov. Bekmambetov is apparently obsessed with this mini-genre, which he calls "Screenlife", and with all due respect to Searching director/cowriter Aneesh Chaganty (making his feature debut), this film is probably more Bekmanbetov's than anyone else's.

This time, the "Screenlife" approach is applied to an otherwise routine thriller: John Cho plays David Kim, a San Jose man whose teenage daughter Margot (Michelle La) goes missing. Working with a local detective (Debra Messing), David tries to crack the mystery by going through Margot's social media profile, friend lists, and so on.

Searching is much more like an airport novel than like Twin Peaks: Chaganty, Bekmambetov, et al serve up a twist-filled story that wraps itself up tidily and leaves nothing to haunt the viewer with. But sometimes that's all you want, and the offbeat visual approach makes it fun. Best of all, the film is also (relatively) true to life about technology. In other words, you won't hear any "beep-beep" typing sounds or see any goofy animated password windows here, like you will in so many clueless Hollywood movies.

Searching is no classic, but it's 102 minutes well-spent. And with its very mild PG-13 rating, you can watch it with your mystery-loving mom.

One final aside, however: as a San Jose native myself, I found it amusing that, while the film freely makes use of trademarked products such as Apple, Facebook, Google, and so forth, it oddly fictionalizes some other entities: the San Jose Sharks NHL team becomes the San Jose "Fins", while the SJPD is rebranded the "Silicon Valley Police Department" for reasons I can only guess at.