Directed by Aneil Karia.
Starring Ben Whishaw, Ellie Haddington, Ian Gelder, and Chris Coghill.
Set over 24 hours in London, Surge is a stripped-back thriller about a man who goes on a bold and reckless journey of self-liberation.
If you were ever curious about what anxiety feels like, watch Surge for 30 minutes, and you’ll have a grasp. There hasn’t been a film in quite some time with this type of energy; this level of sheer excited feeling is rare to come by these days. Even in the most action-packed dramas, they don’t unnerve me as much as Aneil Karia’s debut film did.
Now, to say if this feeling is good or bad is subjective. This writer enjoys the feeling of being on edge during a film, while others look at cinema as a way to unwind. So for those who are wanting to relax, this is not for you. For those who need an expresso shot of a film, Surge is the way to go. Sadly, the film can’t hold up under its insane pace and begins to wear thin after a while.
But scaling back a bit, Surge is a new psychodrama from filmmaker Aneil Karia. Karia is known for a BAFTA-winning short and some work on television, and he comes into the world of film with quite a bold statement. Even when the film isn’t working for me much, the sheer level of craftsmanship and raw talent on display keeps you going. The same goes for the lead actor, Ben Whishaw, who can turn even the most frantic scenes into something you want to watch.
Whishaw stars as Joseph, an airport security guard on his last string. Living alone, tired of his job, and out of money, Joseph spirals down a path that leads him to some utter insanity. Coming up short on cash for something he wants is enough to send him over the edge, and he robs a bank. Seeing how that goes, Joseph changes his seemingly meaningless life into something more entertaining.
We’ve seen this narrative countless times, especially in Falling Down from Joel Schumacher. While this doesn’t quite meet that level, both films feature similar strong lead performances. If it weren’t for the talents of Ben Whishaw, Surge wouldn’t come close to its level of success. The actor throws himself into this performance, making every little moment feel believable and honest. While I never quite feel sad for Joseph, Whishaw brings you as close to understanding as you could get.
Surge falls short the most in its cinematography and edit, sadly. The film’s overall look is grungy and messy, which can add to the vibe that Aneil Karia is going for, but it mostly comes off as sloppy. All the camera work feels like everything is shot at a medium close-up, keeping it tight and in everyone’s face. Again, an aesthetic choice, but it mostly comes off as rather amateur than artistic. Couple that with the washed-out look of everything, and it begins to feel like a low-budget indie that never saw color correction or a wide shot.
The editing is a bit much as well, which is a choice and is excusable up to a point. But it begins to feel the choppy and frantic editing was starting to hinder the story and the performances rather than elevate them. These could all be circumstances of the style of story they want to tell, but I would like to see the filmmakers tackle this with more polish.
When the script is as strong as it is here, Surge packs a great punch there, I wish the technical side kept up with the other departments. The film wastes little time on anything, breezing by with a solid pace and just the right amount of ebb and flow. It’s impressive to see and makes the viewing easy, but it also makes the weaker moments like sloppy cinematography stand out more.
Aneil Karia and Ben Whishaw should become a powerhouse duo in films. Think Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio type of dynamic. Karia and Whishaw seem to speak each other’s cinematic language, and that’s a complex bond to form. If Surge gave me anything, it’s great to see these two connect on another level.
Whishaw offers up another outstanding performance in his budding list of significant roles, and Aneil Karia feels like a star in the making with his direction. Just give these two more time to grow, and we could look back at Surge as a solid launching point for two future mega-stars.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★