‘Searching’ breaks film boundaries

With an unforeseen disappearance, a case of catfishing and an investigation in which no one can be trusted, everyone is asking one question: what happened to Margot Cho?

‘Searching’ is an innovative Screenlife thriller that tells the story of Mr. Cho (played by David Kim), an anguished father in search of his missing daughter Margot. Without any developments in his daughter’s investigation, Mr. Cho takes matters into his own hands and searches her electronic devices for any clues.

If filmed like a traditional action movie, with high-resolution cameras and CGI, Searching would have faded into the background against other big-box action movies like ‘Taken’ and ‘John Wick.’ However, producer Timur Bekmambetov took a different approach, by filming the movie entirely through the viewpoint of computer screens, FaceTime, news reports, security footage and text messages.

Building on the 2014 hit ‘Unfriended: Dark Web,’ the film brings new life into the emerging genre of Screenlife. The filming approach transports viewers into the story and allows them to feel the raw emotions of  Mr. Cho every time he types a text message or uncovers suspicious videos in his daughter’s computer files.

Streme Gove, a senior Music Education major, saw the film and applauded the producer for incorporating the history of technology into the movie:

“The very beginning gave me immediate nostalgia. I know it feels silly to say that as a 21-year-old, but seeing all the old Windows applications and then moving to FaceTime, live news, and text messages was so clever. It really puts into perspective how much media there is to choose from, since they could make a whole movie out of it all,” Gove said.

Even though the movie is confined to screens, the director brings to life Mr. Cho’s frantic search for his daughter. David Kim’s impeccable performance propelled the story forward as he confronts his daughters’ online friends and even his own brother as the possible culprit.

In one of the most dramatic scenes,  Cho confronts Margot’s online friend, Derek, at a movie theater in an attempt to find his daughter’s abductor. With trembling hands, he reaches across the red rope to grasp the boy’s collar and demands that the boy make a confession. The interaction ends in a fistfight. As a result, the detectives suspend Mr. Cho from helping with his daughters’ case.

Zach Bower, a senior Biblical Studies major and an avid movie buff, was very impressed with the director, cast and overall production. He especially applauded the lead actor for his believable role.

“David Kim had a fantastic performance. It is hard enough to put together a compelling performance in any movie, but this performance is even more impressive because he is on screen for what I would say is 90 percent of the movie. Kim is one of the main reasons that the movie is as suspenseful as it is,” Bower said.

However, there are certain tradeoffs that come with this style of movie. When you are confined to a screen to relay an action scene, you lose the mobility to film different angles for optimal viewing. The director chose to display the intense movie theater scene through a viral video on YouTube. It’s hard to see the action because it’s filmed like it’s through an observer’s iPhone.

Perhaps the scene would have been more visually pleasing with expensive production equipment and a video team. However, I would argue that the subpar quality of some shots is what makes this movie so revolutionary. I applaud the director’s approach of ditching cinematic shots to reveal a layer of authenticity and rawness in the film. The director overcame such boundaries to produce a fast-paced film that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

“The movie kept the viewer engaged, didn’t feel too long, and rewarded those who paid attention to detail without sacrificing their enjoyment.” Bower said. “There are subtle hints throughout the movie that tipped me off and guessing the ending became a game to me.”

‘Searching’ was a breath-taking movie, with an unforeseen ending that shook me to my core. Was the culprit Mr. Cho’s brother? Was it a chilling case of cat-fishing? Or perhaps it was Mr. Cho all along.

You will be surprised to learn what really happened to Margot Cho.