Taking place in London over the course of 24 hours, Surge really gets you inside the head of the lead character. Heavy on atmosphere and often surreal, the film hinges on the performance of Ben Whishaw. He is fully committed to bringing Josephy to life in all his quirky glory. Does such a good job that he won a Special Jury Award for his performance.
After catching some attention due to his short films, director Aniel Karia has made his debut feature-length film and besides the stellar performance from his lead actor, he demonstrates an elevated ability to create atmosphere. Aptly recreating what it must be like to be inside another person’s head. The head he is showing us is muddled, agitated and fiercely owning his feelings for the first time in a very long time.
A mind numbing job is enough to drive anyone loco. Joseph (Ben Whishaw – Bright Star, Mary Poppins Returns) is a young man who works at a London airport as a security guard. All shift long he directs people, does body searches and hates every moment. He also has feelings for his co-worker Lily (Jasmine Jobson – Obey) which he never lets on to her about. Joseph’s life is all about feeling lonely and not sleeping. All this combined together brings about Josephy one day behaving in a way he never had before – he just explodes and walks off the job.
A complete breakdown ensues. He was already unstable so it was bound to happen. All that is going on inside his brain leads to Joseph stumbling through the crowded streets of London. The frenzy brings him in contact with all kinds of people – strangers, Lily and his mom (Ellie Haddington – Enola Holmes, Sparkle) and dad (Ian Gelder – from television’s Game of Thrones).
Tension builds and builds throughout the different sequences of the film. Yet there is no real letting off of steam. Just takes up with another confrontation or scene and continues to build. Really allows you to “feel” this guy’s elevated level of unhappiness. Whishaw brings it out. Makes it palpable for the viewer. Brings you along on this one man’s search for happiness and freedom. Despite all the heightened emotions going on it still feels real. Whishaw’s performance really grounds everything. Moves in between tics, strange jerky movements, periods of blankness on his face, and madness.
All that Joseph is feeling – the disorientation and anxiety – is amplified by the fact that it is all filmed by a handheld camera. All shakey like Joseph himself. Follows him on his downward spiral. Now, some might not be able to handle all the shakiness. Might turn away from the film due to motion sickness, but that would be too bad.
All of this leads to an inevitable conclusion. But even that is not done in a typical way. Everything about the film is a little bit different.