Even after good reviews started to trickle in for Searching, I had my doubts. It felt like I was going to be in store for another movie that sells me on a gimmick only to give me that gimmick and nothing else. Thankfully, Searching far exceeded my expectations. I can’t speak highly enough about how well crafted this movie is. To tell virtually an entire movie through screens and devices is one thing. To use them in such a way that perfectly captures the very essence of day-to-day life in 2018 is something else entirely. It goes beyond a framing device and into what it truly feels like to live in this day and age. It’s something that we take for granted every day, but seeing it on the screen makes you realize that your entire life can be constructed by the fragments spread across thousands of servers.
Aside from the storytelling device, John Cho really carries the film. Everything is told through his eyes in a solely first-person driven narrative and he delivers. You can feel every emotion as his world starts to slowly unravel. It’s one thing to see someone in a normal movie be frantic. It’s another to see someone go through the EXACT steps you would probably take if you could not find a loved one and in the EXACT manner.
The story is thrilling and never lets the audience get too comfortable with any single direction it is going. Since we are seeing everything through Cho’s eyes, it doesn’t tug on too many threads simultaneously. Instead, the audience has to wait for Cho to see the new thread and then everyone in the theater pulls on that thread as hard as they possibly can. Sometimes this results in just another loose end and despair for Cho and audience alike. Other times, there is a true sense of dread and terror that was palpable in the theater.
All is not perfect for Searching though. Because of the way the story is told, sacrifices needed to be made with the story. Some will find these a bit too convenient or explanatory and they wouldn’t be wrong. But, for me, the journey was thrilling enough that I am ok with the sacrifices made.
Searching is an exhilarating movie with great storytelling and solid acting. Much like Gravity from years ago, I don’t know that the rewatchability factor is high on this. But on the first experience, it’s one of the better films of 2018.