Recently released in cinemas, as well as through streaming services, is the British drama-thriller, Surge. The movie – directed by Aneil Karia – stars Ben Whishaw, Ellie Haddington, Ian Gelder, and Jasmin Jobson, and follows the story of an airport security operative called Joseph, who slowly descends into a worrying state of mind.
In the movie, Joseph lives in London, works at an airport, has limited interactions with his colleagues, and has a fairly mundane existence. Each day he watches as thousands of passengers pass through the security gates; he occasionally pulls a few people to one side if the metal detector is activated, but this is about as exciting as life has become.
Then one day, something changes within Joseph and he starts to act erratic. His behaviour both inside and outside of work takes a worrying turn, and he quickly begins to disconnect from everything around him.
Things reach a turning point when Joseph commits a crime. He gets away with a large sum of money from a local bank, and this becomes a trigger for more criminal activity.
But the further Joseph travels down this chaotic path, the worse his mental state becomes. And soon, he finds himself caught up in a chain of events with no obvious way out.
Surge is currently playing in select cinemas across the UK, but if you can’t find a screening or you would prefer to view the movie at home, it is available to rent through multiple streaming platforms including Amazon, BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema. A digital edition of the movie is also available, should you simply want to skip the rental phase and buy it outright.
The question of course is, should you devote some of your time and money to Surge? And that is not an easy question to answer.
Surge is not a movie for everyone and those who are keen to check it out will probably do so because of lead star, Ben Whishaw. Whishaw is a popular, likeable, and very strong actor, and this will no doubt encourage fans to view his latest performance.
And if you are checking this film our purely for Whishaw, then you will find something to get your teeth into, because he serves up a stand-out turn. As Joseph, he is tasked with creating a frenetic character who edges the cusp of sanity, and he pulls it off marvellously.
His descent into (sort of) madness is very interesting to watch. It is a measured performance and he never over eggs the pudding.
In my mind, Whishaw makes this movie what it is. There is also much to be said about some of the camera work in this picture too.
The movie is shot in a way which feels very energetic, very discombobulating, and also very personal. The camera compliments the lead and almost becomes an extension of Joseph, and when he begins to experience troublesome moments, the audience is drawn in.
One scene in particular has the camera spinning around so much I had to briefly glance away from the screen when watching. All that movement made me feel a little queasy, and perhaps a little too connected to what Joseph was feeling at that point in time.
The sheer amount of work that has gone into bringing Joseph alive on screen – through acting and staging – should be commended. However, I feel that the focus on Joseph and his mental state, while very well done, is sadly detrimental to the rest of the movie.
In terms of story, Surge doesn’t ever feel like it goes anywhere. As detailed above, watching Joseph is certainly something to see, but beyond this, there’s not much else going on.
At no point during the picture did I feel like I was watching anything other than someone lose their grip on reality. And as well presented as that proved to be, I needed more.
I wanted more characterisation, more depth, and frankly, so much more than this film brought to the table. Where the heck is the story? I can see the ideas bouncing off the screen, but there’s so much emptiness.
I wanted to be taken on a well-planned journey, or at the very least I would have liked to have been taken somewhere. Instead, I felt as if I was trapped on a bus, circling the same roundabout for 100 minutes and rapidly running out of petrol.
When this film finally came to an end, it was all very anti-climactic. It didn’t reach its destination so much as come grinding to a halt and this left me feeling severely underwhelmed.
For me, Surge is a picture with something to say, and with the skills in place to bring that message to the forefront, but it falls apart somewhere in the construction. Parts of it work very well, but parts of it don’t, and ultimately it lacks substance where it really counts.
Those who favour performance over story will find enough to interest them, and to reiterate my previous point, those who simply want to watch Whishaw deliver an acting masterclass, will be pleased. But for everyone else, this is a bit too arty, a bit too experimental, and nowhere near the movie I believe it could be.