As far as movies that take place entirely on a computer screen go, Aneesh Chaganty’s Searching is about as good as the self-limiting subgenre gets.
Eschewing the supernatural menace of the repugnant Unfriended, likewise produced by the once-mighty Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted; Day Watch/Night Watch), the film unspools a reality-grounded story in which San Jose 16-year-old Margot Kim (Michelle La) goes missing and her father David (the consistently great John Cho, Columbus) frantically tries to find her.
Aided by Det. Vick (Debra Messing, showing some welcome range), the widower follows various leads and instincts with increasing desperation that ratchet up the film’s tension and yield occasional humor via his technological naïveté.
But compelling as it often is, the manipulative nature of certain elements and an awareness of the tricks involved to source many clips — not to mention questions surrounding just who “compiled” the entire film, a shortcoming of nearly every found-footage work — caps the overall product’s potential.
Grade: B-minus. Rated R. Now playing at Carolina Cinemark. Starts Sept. 6 at Biltmore Grande.
(Photo: Screen Gems)