Searching

From the producer of Unfriended and Unfriended: Dark Web comes another screen-based thriller about a father (John Cho) searching for his teenage daughter (Michelle La), who goes missing after running into some unexpected problems online. 

“How do I block Simon Pegg on here?”

The film plays out almost entirely on Cho’s computer screen; a gimmick no less contrived than the found footage conceit that preceded it, but much more entertaining. Where the handheld camera format eliminated the need for a story, these Glitchcockian movies require particularly outlandish plotlines because otherwise you’d just be watching someone reading Goop all day. For example.

As always the opening Sony logo makes your heart sink, not least for the poor girl whose search is to be carried out on Bing like in The Amazing Spider-Man. Fortunately for her, Cho uses Google because director Aneesh Chaganty has made a lot of adverts for them. Chaganty uses the device smartly and keeps the drama unfolding at a compelling pace, resulting in the tensest web-based experience I’ve had since the time I accidentally went on porn at work when looking for the Wetherspoons website.

Between the product placement and lack of crew, Searching was probably known as Kerching at Sony; part Google advert, part satire and part John Cho making faces into a webcam for an hour and 40 minutes. Debra Messing co-stars, making this the Harold & Kumar meets Will & Grace mash-up we’ve all been clamouring for. I’m hoping this means Will and Kumar get their own film, where they track down a missing person on Formspring. And if you think that reference is dated, wait a couple of years and then watch Searching.

Silly and gimmicky as it is, Searching does as iPhones seldom seem to: it works. It’s fun, it’s novel and there’s even a lesson in there: be smart online, and never assume you know the Wetherspoons URL.

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