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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 18, 2018 

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SYNOPSIS:
When 16 year old Margot (Michelle La) goes missing, her father David (John Cho) tries to help Detective Vick (Debra Messing) through tracking Margot's friends and activities through various social media on her laptop.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There is a certain inevitability about the device used in this film, the embrace of digital communications and social networking as the reality through which a distraught widower, David (John Cho) chases clues to her daughter's fate. But this is not just a high concept movie, it is a drama well served by a script that is designed to fit the vehicle and vice versa. Almost entirely taking place on a computer (laptop) screen blown up to cinema size, the filmmakers manage to avoid overloading us with the gimmick. There is plenty of substance to the screenplay and lots of tension, not to mention a couple of unexpected twists.

John Cho leads the cast as the worried father with a nice range in emotional output, while Debra Messing makes for a credible policewoman determined to solve the mystery. Michelle La is excellent as the 16 year old Margot, with a haunting quality to her performance.

Torin Borrowdale's score forges suitable atmospherics and the threesome on camera give us a taste of magic in capturing the familiar, everyday text and voice messaging in a way that doesn't tire our senses.

Of special interest, I think, is the inventive way the film establishes the characters through a series of milestones in Margot's life, virtually from birth. This device not only gives texture, but makes the use of screen-based images a natural tool.

Review by Louise Keller:
If it wasn't so good, you could call it gimmicky, but this novel concept using the computer screen and assorted technologies is so well executed that the result is a gripping mystery thriller that never lets up. In his feature film debut, writer director Aneesh Chaganty has come up with a unique storytelling method in which all the action takes place through FaceTime, text messages, news broadcasts, hidden cameras, security footage, Google, Facebook and other social media sites. This is a high concept film that relies on character, action and engagement with its audience. Like The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Unfriended (2004), the film is unique in its own way. The producer is Russian director Timur Bekmambetov, known for Ben Hur (2016) and Night Watch (2004) and the film is all class - from performances to the stylish way in which the story unfolds.

With great economy and speed, the characters are firmly established, as are the circumstances of the family unit. Our hearts are battered within the first 10 minutes, so by the time the teenage Margot (Michella La) disappears and her single father David Kim (John Cho) is distraught, the film has our undivided attention.

Replete with twists and turns, red herrings and a novel approach to the stylistic visuals, we are drawn into the life and world of Margot as the search for her digital footprint begins. Does David really know his daughter? How easy is it to deceive? Who are the key people in Margot's life? What of all the other characters who become integral to the playing out of the story? What is real and what is fiction? Everyone seems to have something to hide - except for David, the protagonist, through whose eyes the story is told.

The casting is excellent with Cho perfectly cast as the loving father intent on leaving no stone unturned in the search for his daughter. Michella Debra Messing brings many layers to Rosemary Vick, the detective in charge of the case, who champions above all else, a mother's love, while La has an appealing natural interaction. Joseph Lee has an interesting personality as David's pot-smoking brother. It is deceptive how many characters weave their way in and out of the action, be it contacts through social media sites, or those like Vick's son, who occasionally pokes his head around the door.

What happens is best discovered as you watch the film. It's edge of seat cinema as all the cinematic tools are used to enhance the tenseness of the situation and the rollercoaster ride in which we are strapped. It's thrilling, edgy and ultimately satisfying.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

SEARCHING (M)
(US, 2018)

CAST: John Cho, Debra Messing, Joseph Lee, Michelle La, Dominic Hoffman, Reed Buck, Steve Michael Eich, Connor McRaith

PRODUCER: Timur Bekmambetov

DIRECTOR: Aneesh Chaganty

SCRIPT: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Juan Sebastian Baron, Nick Johnson, Will Merrick

EDITOR: Nick Johnson, Will Merrick

MUSIC: Torin Borrowdale

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Angel Herrera

RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 13, 2018







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