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Runtime 105 minutes
PG-13

This is a brilliantly devised thriller that is told in such a captivating way that it is almost impossible not to enjoy. Written (with Sev Ohanian) and directed by Aneesh Chaganty, the unique and clever cinematography opens with a computer screen and somebody typing into it. Get used to that because half of the movie is shown that way, with people texting and speaking with one another on their computers.

Margot (Michelle La), the daughter of David Kim (John Cho), goes missing and he has no way to track her down except through her computer life. Debra Messing is the police officer in charge of searching for her and she seems really committed to helping David find his daughter.

Producer Timur Bekmambetov grasped on this story with his concept that he calls “screen-life” and feels it is a new film language. He discovered it in 2012 when he was having a Skype communication with a partner. The partner failed to turn off the screen-sharing function, so Bekmambetov observed as his friend made internet searches, communicated with friends on social media, place internet orders, and do the other things that people do on their computers. He felt that this gave him a completely new view of his friend’s “inner life,” and what made him tick, as he watched him move the cursor, open and close windows, and the choices he made.  He felt that he could deduce his friend’s emotions as he watched him navigate on his computer. The result is this captivating film, which exposes people’s “screen life.”

So it is with this film. With access to her computer, David learns more about his daughter than he ever knew, accessing social media, texts, emails, her whole life shown in photos and video snippets, saved on her computer. What this unique film does is tell a story by showing the modern way people interact in this electronic world.

For most people, I guess, the things David goes through on her computer are normal things young people do every day, but for some of it, it’s state of the art, so that part was truly enlightening.

Tony Medley is an MPAA-accredited film critic. See more reviews at TonyMedley.com.

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