Ben Whishaw, dominant and poised, mesmerizes in “SURGE” | REVIEW

Directed by Aneil Karia

Starring Ben Whishaw, Ellie Haddington and Hammed Animashaun

Alienation is unhealthy, it is not good for the psyche. Fading into the background with no friends or acquaintances, people who go unnoticed would do almost anything to have their voice heard and for someone to see them. Loneliness and an uncaring world can drive some people to madness.

In Aneil Karia’s “Surge,” we meet one such person, a man at the breaking point.

Ben Whishaw is Joseph, a lonely man who works for British Airport Security. It is a high-stress job and Joseph seems to already be a character too tightly wound. He is one of those people you pass on the street and, if you do notice them at all, you get a small sense of unease, something off about them.

After losing his cool with an elderly passenger regarding a strip search and being all but ignored by his co-workers for too long (they devour his birthday cake yet have no clue who it is for), Joseph quits.

His parents are no safe space, either. Joseph’s mother (Ellie Haddington) is miserable and peckish and annoys her son.

Joseph walks through the world entirely and completely invisible socially.

Screenwriters Rupert Jones, Rita Kalnejais, and director Karia are crafty in showing the final stages of the shattering of Joseph’s mental illness. When their focus is on Joseph, it works and works very well.

Stuart Bentley’s handheld camerawork produces a sense of narrative tension, the cinematographer stays in tight, so we are aware of every moment of the lead character’s mental decline. Whereas handheld cinematography has become a lazy and visually obtrusive way to shoot a film for many of today’s directors, Bentley’s approach is welcome here. We are often nose-to-nose with Joseph, looking deep into his eyes and feeling the surge of emotional electricity charging his every move.

Ben Whishaw is mesmerizing. The actor perfectly portrays those who exist outside of society while trying to navigate through it. His is an excellent portrayal of a man walking a not-so-smooth path along a jagged edge. Whishaw won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival for his turn. This is likely a challenging role Whishaw and the actor is phenomenal at it.

Karia keeps the film raw and aggressive, his fractured and kinetic style benefiting the story of a man coming apart while giving in to feelings that are completely out of his control.

Anchored by terrific work from Ben Whishaw, “Surge” is a gutsy and captivating film that highlights the sometimes-absurd nature of everyday life.

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