by Ian Morton
The way directors tell a story changes with every passing generation. John Carpenter threw the door open to first person perspective with the Halloween franchise, The Blair Witch Project boosted the popularity of found footage and James Cameron made 3D variations the norm. Now the world can’t go more than 10 minutes without going online in some way, it looks like the next film technique is on the verge of making its way to the big screen.
In 2014, the small scale – yet highly enjoyable – horror title Unfriended was released to the world. With the entirety of its narrative told from the perspective of a the laptop, the audience were hogtied to the screen as every keystroke built to an eerie sense of tension. It was certainly unusual at the time but the effect was surprisingly impressive at building tone and was well received by audiences.
Searching builds upon this simple design, switching the genre and telling a story that’s just, if not more, chilling than its horror equivalent. With an oddly nostalgic step into the modern past, we’re caught up with a young family history through the lens of operating systems. With an opening scrawl that Pixar would be proud of, Windows XP serves as the backdrop for tragedy, as we learn of a mother’s passing and grieving family having to deal with their loss.
Fast forward to the interconnected world of MacOs and the father – David – and daughter – Margot – combo are coming to terms with their loss while moving on with their lives. Taking each step day by day, the broken household are shaken further when Margot goes missing after a late night study group. Using all devices at his disposal, it’s up to David to track the techno-breadcrumbs of modern day living in hopes to investigate his daughter’s disappearance.
Striding onto the scene with his feature debut, writer/director Aneesh Chaganty takes things in his stride, as he tells a provocative mystery that leaves you guessing at all opportunities. As the story unravels, conversations through Facetime capture striking performances from leads, John Cho and Debra Messing while the meat of the pursuit unravels as David is left to comb through all too familiar websites such as Gmail, Facebook and google maps.
Although there are some moments when the film feels handcuffed by its method, it’s also the secret to its success. While some scenes don’t hugely gel with the original idea, its a well thought out movie that fits snug in a succinct, well paced shell. Rather than dwell too long on one particular idea, Searching is stacked full of misdirection that does a great job at both keeping the audience on the edge of their seat and intrigued to find out more.
Searching is shaping up to be the hidden gem of the summer season. With the backing of strong performances and an intriguing mystery to unravel, there are certainly worse ways to waste an hour and a half. By the time the story reaches its conclusion, it’s hard not to feel both in awe of what technology can do as well as slightly fearful of the beastly little computer in your front pocket.
Check out what we thought of last year with our top 10 of 2017:
Top 10 films of the year – The Big Dudes perspective!