Surge (3 stars)

Surge

Ben Whishaw is on top form in this frantic, London-set drama from debut feature director Aneil Karia

This frantic and spiralling London-set drama is propelled by a typically knockout performance from the wonderful Ben Whishaw, who plays a twitchy and fed-up young man in the throes of a mental crisis. It's the feature debut of Top Boy and Lovesick director Aneil Karia, who has a number of short films under his belt, including 2017's BAFTA-nominated Work.

When we meet Joseph (Whishaw) he's a distracted and disaffected airport employee tasked with stopping and searching travellers, a job that delivers its fair share of uncomfortable situations, while he seems alienated from his colleagues. Back at his flat, his evening is a sad and solitary one, as he sits watching Michael McIntyre with a dead-eyed stare. A visit to his parents' suburban home for his birthday is even more agonising. His father (Ian Gelder) is openly hostile and, though his mother (Ellie Haddington) makes more effort, conversation between them is far from free-flowing. During their dinner together, Joseph's anxiety becomes so overwhelming that he bites through a glass, and it's only the beginning…

Shot with real and increasing energy using handheld cameras, which pound the capital's streets and shadow the protagonist closely, the film's urgency is enhanced by Whishaw's livewire turn, with Joseph going from cowed and anonymous to animated and extremely unpredictable, as he begins blowing up his life in a way that visibly exhilarates him. Although it largely feels believable and authentically captured (particularly the depressing family and work dynamics), the story – the screenplay is a collaboration between Karia, Rupert Jones and Rita Kalnejais – can stretch credulity somewhat, particularly in terms of how much Joseph is able to get away with.

Nevertheless, with this ingenious, obviously modestly-budgeted effort, Karia puts himself firmly on the filmmaking map. Despite the stripped-back narrative, the director presents London in an interesting and multi-faceted way; he embraces the chaos as Joseph bounces between encounters, confrontations and wildly different environments in a city where thousands of things are happening at once.

Available to watch in cinemas and on demand from Fri 28 May.

Surge

  • 3 stars
  • 2020
  • UK
  • 1h 45min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Aneil Karia
  • Written by: Rupert Jones, Rita Kalnejais, Aneil Karia
  • Cast: Ben Whishaw, Ellie Haddington, Ian Gelder, Jasmine Jobson

Joseph (Ben Wishaw) lives a quiet, modest life in London. A few strange incidents occur, and he finally boils over, setting off on a chaotic, frenzied journey of self-liberation.