How far would we go to protect our lives and careers and to shelter our loved ones from pain? To what lengths would we go to bury our sins? What would be the consequence if those sins are revealed?
These are the questions asked and answered by the New Mexico/U.K. co-production “Feedback,” a tense and well-acted thriller that explodes with the ferocity of a shotgun blast.
The cinematic treasure that is Eddie Marsan stars as Jarvis Dolan, a popular yet controversial U.K. radio host who has recently been returned from a kidnapping that happened as a result of his harsh and controversial political views.
Dolan’s bosses are insistent that he allow his troubled former co-host Andrew Wilde (Paul Anderson) to rejoin his show. Unfortunately, he is told this right before airtime for that night’s show so Dolan has no time to prepare himself.
Going into his studio, he is already agitated and angry when he realizes that two masked men have taken over the booth and are holding his producer Anthony (Alexis Rodney) and his new assistant Claire (Ivana Baquero) hostage.
The motives of the assailants aren’t immediately apparent and the screenplay (by Alberto Marini and Director Pedro C. Alonso) smartly makes this a slow reveal. In doing so, the suspense begins to boil with each passing moment, until it cannot be contained anymore.
As the film builds, emotional and physical torture at the hands of the intruders brings about shocking revelations which forces us to question our allegiances. It is here where the director expertly toys with his audience in a manner that fit for an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Alonso forces the moral ambiguities of his characters upon us hard and makes the tensions of their situations palpable.
The claustrophobic atmosphere of the piece works to its advantage. Cinematographer Angel Iguacel shoots tight and keeps the lighting “Gordon Willis” dark, which heightens the doom-heavy tension.
The sound design should also be noted. Sometimes it is just one voice (usually Marsen’s) that bellows over the speakers as he and his former cohost are forced to speak about dark incidents that they may, or may not, be involved in. Their voices echo through the halls of the studio, like soul-deep confessions to the universe.
The cast is another strong suit of “Feedback.” Paul Anderson is Marsen’s ex-partner and friend, Andrew Wilde. The actor plays him full of piss and vinegar and wannabe macho coolness. Wilde is the kind of man who is obviously not as strong as he seems to be and one who compensates for his personal shames with a big personality. When that shell is cracked by the intent of the studio’s invaders, Anderson has a monologue that is terrifyingly honest and one that turns the character into a very real threat to the survival of the night.
Richard Brake has become the kind of character actor that elevates every film he is in. He is a bold and fearless actor whose performances are unpredictable and inventive. In my review of Rob Zombie’s “31” and “3 From Hell,” I stated how his work burned off the screen. That praise stands strong for his work in this film, too. He is one of the assailants and his character does some brutal things but, as the director continues to pull his puppet strings on his viewers, we ask ourselves if Brake’s character is a true villain, after all, or not. The actor has a moment where he lets the humanity inside this man come out and he does it with a change in his eyes and the way he sees someone after a revelation that may or may not change the outcome for everyone involved. It’s another marvelous work from Brake, who is most definitely on a cinematic roll!
Eddie Marsan digs deep for his portrayal of Jarvis Dolan. The character is an angry and annoyed man who doesn’t seem to know how to (nor care to) smile. Marsan’s performance is aggressive and tough. His diction, tight and forceful, would be right at home in the world of David Mamet.
Dolan is a soon-to-be regretful self-absorbed man who carries his past sins deep within him. As the film progresses, Marsan shows the emotional bomb within him that is soon to explode. But he keeps the emotions tight, never giving too much nor going too far. The thriller genre can be a breeding ground for overacting, but Marsan is too smart for that. We see his sadness and regret when his own daughter is threatened and when the violence becomes too real, the actor lets loose a man with nothing left to lose but to retaliate. This is the kind of great performance (the entire cast does fantastic work!) that films of this persuasion usually don’t have on offer.
Yet, “Feedback” is not just a thriller nor, merely, is it a hostage takeover piece. Pedro C. Alonso’s film has something to say. This unique work speaks to a culture where aggressive agitators are rewarded and extreme messages from these barking and angry hosts can be turned into ratings gold.
There are prices to be paid for past sins and this film recognizes that money and celebrity shouldn’t shield one from justice. “Feedback” gives us some truly gripping and edge-of-your-seat moments that make it stand out from most modern-day thrillers. But it is also a searing warning that, no matter how well your life may be going, the past stands waiting.