SURGE Film Review — Going On Instinct

Joseph sits and eats his lunch in an airport staff room. He bites on his metal fork uncomfortably and listens to his coworkers discuss the poor taste of cheap birthday cake. 

Later, Joseph stands alone in his apartment kitchen. The cramp walls and narrow doorways box him in the frame tightly. He sulks and drinks from his glass of water before biting down on it nervously. 

The next day, he has dinner with his parents. A tense and nervous silence surrounds them as they eat. When he walks into the kitchen and finds his mother adding candles to a cake, she reprimands him for ruining his surprise. After cake, Joseph once again bites down on his glass cup, though this time it’s too hard. He bites through, and the glass shatters and cuts his mouth. He runs to the restroom bleeding. His parents hysterically scream and pound on the bathroom door behind him. An ominous electronic drone enters the soundtrack. Joseph runs out of the house and down the street. The camera chases after him, making the image nauseatingly shaky. 

Life before and after this moment are very different for Joseph in Surge, the film directed by Aneil Karia. It serves as a literal breaking point from the tension in the beginning of the film. 

Joseph works at an airport, where he screens flyers for banned objects and items. One customer makes a scene with Joseph, grabbing and touching him and giving him cryptic phrases and requests. When security finally takes the man away, Joseph looks scared and frustrated. 

Joseph appears on the verge of a break, and the film follows what happens when he finally does. For this reviewer, it is not clear whether this break is genuine or a conscious decision to change his life and rebel against society. But the results are the same, and the tension and suspense that follow are palpable. Joseph embarks on a rebellion against proper society and its rules. This mutiny, performed convincingly by Ben Whishaw, is a very physical one. Joseph walks down the street dancing, smiling, and shaking his limbs randomly. He never seems to stop moving. The pedestrians on the crowded streets of London notice him, but it doesn’t appear that he cares. The camera is always tightly framed on Joseph, with the rest of the streets and scenery around him blurred out of focus. Joseph jumps over turnstiles, hangs off train handles and touches unsuspecting strangers' coats. These acts of impulse soon escalate, and suspense builds as we try to predict how far Joseph will go. 

Thrills in SURGE

The soundtrack is sparse with music, and often all we hear are the natural sounds of the immediate surroundings. In this writer’s opinion, this produces a documentary feel to the film, which only adds even more suspense as we try and figure out if the people witnessing Joseph’s wild behavior are actors or not. 

You, like this reviewer,  might find yourself cringing in your seat, hoping that Joseph won’t do what you think he’ll do, and that it won’t go wrong, but it always does. 

Those looking for a more traditionally structured film might want to avoid this one, but this will be a good watch for those that tolerate tension and want a solid thriller.


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Directed by Aneil Karia

Written by Aneil Karia, Rupert Jones and Rita Kalnejais


Ben Whishaw

Visit the FilmRise site to learn where you can stream SURGE

Images Courtesy of FilmRise

Ricardo Rico

About the Author: Ricardo Rico

Ricardo thinks it's unfortunate that there’s not enough time in the day or in a lifetime to see all the great works of art that have been made, are being made, and will be made. Luckily, this does mean that there’s always a new and surprising piece of art to be found wherever you look. That’s why he’s constantly adding new films, albums, books, and occasionally, video games to his list of pieces to check out. He likes to create just as much, whether it's with a camera, laptop or guitar, and is always working on shooting another film or writing another screenplay or song. This keeps his mind sharp, while soccer, weightlifting and walks with his dog give him the endurance to keep searching for the next great work he’s yet to discover.

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