Searching ★★★

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Reviewed for Monster Lookout:

Producer Timur Bekmambetov broke ground in movie theaters in 2015 with Unfriended, a horror film set entirely on computer screens. (Kevin Lee, amongst others, beat him to the desktop punch online with Transformers: The Premake.) Bekmambetov, in conjunction with first-time feature director Aneesh Chaganty, returns to this aesthetic but shifts genres for a thriller about a missing daughter and the secrets she's left behind. While the gimmick occasionally hamstrings the film, at its best, it enhances the experience in unexpected ways: the knowing experience of deleting an instant message before it's sent, the accidental uncovering of emotional bombshells when searching for files, the frustration of Norton AntiVirus. Helping matters further is a dynamite performance from John Cho (a standout in last year's Columbus), realistically ratcheting through the emotions provoked by the gradual revelations. It's also full of minor pleasures for geeks. Pay attention to the different desktop portraits for each user, or the detail paid in the opening to period-appropriate interfaces for Facebook, YouTube, and so on. For me, the score was a bit overreaching and a final twist was a bridge too far, but that's not to undersell Searching's strengths: it's a novel crowdpleaser, and how many films can you say that for?

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