VOD film review: Surge
Ivan Radford | On 28, May 2021
Director: Aneil Karia
Cast: Ben Whishaw
Watch Surge online in the UK: Netflix UK / Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Virgin Movies / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Several years ago, Ben Whishaw delivered one of the most unusual, intense and unique performances of his career in the short film Beat, which saw his unnamed figure whipped into a reverie by a non-stop beat in his head. Now, he and director Aneil Karia have reunited for Surge, and it’s a similarly physical showcase for the actor, one that moves to its own fascinating rhythm.
Now called Joseph, we learn that this mysterious man is a security guard at Stansted Airport. But the pressure of work contributes to what emerges as a gradual, ongoing nervous breakdown. That begins to show through as he deals with unwanted items of baggage, passenger searches and colleagues who don’t understand what he’s going through. There’s little respite at home, where his bullying mother keeps him infantilised and intimidated, even as we watch him celebrate growing another year older.
And suddenly, quietly, the everyday existence and routine breaks – and in its place is a new metronome that whips Joseph into a frenzy of bank robberies, violent outbursts and even a sequence involving the world’s most awkward wedding reception. If that sounds like a busy 90 minutes, you’re not wrong: the script, by Rupert Jones and Rita Kalnejais, is so busy moving from one escalating incident to the next that it doesn’t give us much of a window into Joseph’s mindset.
That results in an experience that’s more visceral than thoughtful, but Karia’s visuals are riveting and alarming in equal measure, carrying us along on a wave of energy and intensity that doesn’t let up until the end credits. It’s a remarkable piece of direction, and it wouldn’t work without Whishaw firing on all cylinders, capturing the frenetic, frightening nihilism of his unravelling enigma. It’s a jittery, nerve-jangling watch, one that’s as immersive as it is distressing.
Surge is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
Where can I buy or rent Surge online in the UK?
This review was originally published during the 2021 Borderlines Film Festival