Searching

 

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This sprightly new digital thriller exposes a world in which one can no longer disappear without a trace…

 

Searching 

Laptoppled: John Cho

  

The first thing we hear is the dial tone of a modem. Gosh, those were the days. Then, via a nostalgic montage of largely forgotten interfaces, we skip through the digital life of the Kim family. For many viewers, these clean, simple platforms will be alien to them, while others will be aghast by how quickly we’ve forgotten what was once such familiar imagery. But Aneesh Chaganty's film is more concerned with the present day and more specifically with the enormous sweep of the worldwide web. David Kim (John Cho, of the Harold & Kumar films) keeps in almost constant contact by text with his 15-year-old daughter Margot (Michelle La). Whether he’s wishing her luck, exchanging ephemera or scolding her for not taking out the trash, he will text her. So, when she fails to respond to his messages, a mild panic sets in. He then realises that she has left her laptop on the kitchen counter and so he breaks into her world in an attempt to track down her whereabouts. What he finds, through her emails, social networking and Internet history, is not the daughter he thought he knew…

 

It all started with Unfriended (2014): in which the humble cursor becomes our protagonist. For those au fait with the tangle of applications available to us today, it is now a habitual journey to criss-cross these interconnected platforms. And, with our children now seemingly closer at the click of a mouse, the next generation has actually disappeared down a rabbit’s warren of the arcane. This is brought home efficiently in a familiar yet novel narrative as David Kim plunges ever deeper into the morass of mixed media available to his thumbs. And, as his search expands, so does the dramatis personae, be it Facebook ‘friends,’ anonymous trolls or newshounds hungry for a story.

 

In short, Searching is a story that should resonate for every parent, bar the most defiant of technophobes. Both social satire and digital thriller, it zips along fluently, dropping virtually subliminal pointers and clues to the virtual along the way. The film works as it does because its two main characters – David and Margot Kim – are rendered so instantly sympathetic. This was less the case with Unfriended, and with Unfriended: Dark Web already on the bandwagon, one wonders how long the format can sustain an entire genre. But Searching definitely holds the upper hand, both for its temporal breadth and admonitory edge. However, nota bene, we are no more defined by what we might stray upon on the web as by what we might overhear on the street. It’s just that the former leaves a trace. Discuss.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing, Michelle La, Joseph Lee, Sara Sohn.

 

Dir Aneesh Chaganty, Pro Timur Bekmambetov, Sev Ohanian, Natalie Qasabian and Adam Sidman, Screenplay Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian, Ph Juan Sebastian Baron, Pro Des Angel Herrera, Ed Nick Johnson and Will Merrick, Music Torin Borrowdale, Costumes Emily Moran.

 

Bazelevs Company/Stage 6 Films-Sony Pictures.

102 mins. USA. 2018. Re: 31 August 2018. Cert. 12A.