Genre: Thriller
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing, Joseph Lee, Michelle La
Runtime: 1 hr 43 mins
Rating: PG13 (Brief Coarse Language and Drug References)
Released By: Sony Pictures
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 27 September 2018

Synopsis: After David Kim (John Cho)’s 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a local investigation is opened and a detective is assigned to the case. But 37 hours later and without a single lead, David decides to search the one place no one has looked yet, where all secrets are kept today: his daughter’s laptop. In a hyper-modern thriller told via the technology devices we use every day to communicate, David must trace his daughter’s digital footprints before she disappears forever.

Movie Review:

If Up’s emotional opening montage left you teary eyed, the first few minutes of this movie directed by Aneesh Chaganty rivals that. Through a series of computer screens, you see photos, videos, email messages and calendar appointments. The mouse is navigated by Dad as he recollects his daughter’s early milestones. It is clear that she grew up in a loving family.

Thanks to composer Torin Borrowdale’s emotionally charged music score, you feel the family’s joy as they celebrate little triumphs. Then you become a total wreck when Mom is smacked in the face with terminal illness.

Nope, you are not reading a review of a melodramatic tearjerker. As the movie title blatantly implies, this is a thriller where a father, well, searches for his lost daughter. What you just saw during the film’s impressive opening sequence is a precursor for the plot that follows. Now a teenager, the 16 year old goes missing and it is up to the widower to uncover the truth with the help of a police detective.

If you do not already know, this whodunit is presented from the point of view of smartphones and computer screens. While this approach is not new, it is noteworthy that producer Timur Bekmambetov was also involved in Unfriended (2014) and its 2018 sequel, two other titles that told their stories almost entirely through the screen cast of a laptop.

Before you judge that this is a gimmicky way to make a film, let us assure you that it is not the case here. The highly recommended movie stands out from the crowd with its powerful and relevant messages. The film has already been recognised with a few accolades, including the Alfred Sloan Prize and NEXT Audience Award, at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

When you put a father who is hell bent on searching for his lost daughter, you can bet that emotions will run high. What’s even more poignant here is that as the 103 minute movie progresses, you realise that we are so connected to technology, there are literally no secrets on the world wide web. Just ask yourself: how many social media and online platform accounts do you possess? Gmail, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram are just the tip of the iceberg. How about online transaction sites? In case you become paranoid, let’s not get started on how you are leaving your trails with every shopping website you visit.

Back to the movie – John Cho (Star Trek Beyond) and Debra Messing (Lucky You) headline the movie and deliver excellent performances. Cho, who has been in the media limelight for being an Asian American actor playing the lead role in the first ever mainstream Hollywood thriller, is wonderful here as a proud Dad who will stop at nothing to find the whereabouts of his daughter. Messing, who is better known for TV’s Will & Grace, injects the right amount of punch and edginess to play a police detective.

There are enough twists and turns in this well paced and brilliantly executed suspense thriller without making you scorn in disbelief. Above all, it is a timely story of how humans are inexplicably intertwined with technology, an inevitable way of life which is alluring and foreboding at the same time.

Movie Rating:

(A perfect score for a perfectly executed movie that is timely and emotionally compelling)    

Review by John Li

You might also like: