Directed by Aneil Karia.
Starring Ben Whishaw, Ellie Haddington, Ian Gelder, Jasmine Jobson and Perry Fitzpatrick.
Joseph (Ben Whishaw) takes London by storm in one twenty four hour period. This is a visual record of that journey.
Surge is a profound sensory experience with a force of nature at its centre in the form of Ben Whishaw. His kinetic performance carries this film along for an hour and forty minutes of hedonistic indulgence. Appetites are sated, passions fulfilled and social constraints jettisoned. Writer-director Aneil Karia is observer, enabler and documentarian in a film which could have been shot by Anthony Dod Mantle. There is a free form style to Surge, which imbues every second with a potent electricity.
From London streets to hotel wedding receptions, Joseph is propelled by an insatiable need which operates free from consequence. Cinematographer Stuart Bentley embraces the chaos and communicates that unpredictability, by tuning into Joseph’s emotional state. His camera is a roving observer intent on savouring every moment of this exercise in excess. Colours are vibrant, over saturated and pigment fresh.
Everything which occurs in this microcosm of human indifference is the result of isolation. Joseph is ignored by workmates, belittled by his family and has trouble interacting. Through a combination of facial tics, hyperventilated over exertion and bold performance choices, Ben Whishaw reinvents himself. Q from the Bond franchise is banished and gets replaced instead by a ball of neurosis. Ellie Haddington and Ian Gelder are the parents, who mirror Joseph’s behaviour whilst being less than parental in the process.
Their indifference is mirrored by Londoners who choose to ignore, cross the road or think the worst. From start to finish there is very little rest bite, as Joseph disappears down the rabbit hole for kicks. Only Lily, played by Jasmine Jobson, offers something close to companionship in a single sequence that hints at redemption. For many this seemingly random structure will prove to be either intriguing or unwelcome.
On first viewing everything feels haphazard. Encounters appear arbitrary while Joseph’s mental state is in doubt and events feel untethered. That Surge is structured, has a script and yet feels fundamentally improvised comes down to a staggering ensemble. By making the mundane an essential to the mix, director Aneil Karia breathes life into a London landscape that latches on to Joseph like a limpet. This only fuels his uncertainty and ramps up the palpable tension that crackles on screen. As his escapades become more brazen in their ferocity, Surge begins to feel like a stripped back indie take on Falling Down.
A need to conform keeps people on the straight and narrow. Stepping off that path has consequences that normal people are not prepared to deal with. Joseph offers audiences a cathartic experience without getting their hands dirty. The documentary style and digital steady-cam format allows these filmmakers immense creative freedom. Freedom to get audiences thinking, get people talking and make this cautionary tale mandatory viewing in the process.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★