This film was previously reviewed in February 2020 as part of our Berlinale coverage.

Ben Whishaw is certainly one of the finest actors of his generation, and Aneil Karia’s Surge is a film which allows him to flex his muscles unlike any other. Joseph (Whishaw) works in airport security – his job and life marked by routine and little excitement: he commutes to work, performs the same repetitive actions all day as he pats down travellers, and eats microwave meals for dinner. There isn’t much interaction with his colleagues, who barely seem to notice him at all – until he snaps one day. 

The lead up to this is carefully staged in small moments, such as an encounter with a stranger in the middle of some sort of psychotic episode; or the awkward birthday lunch at his parents’ house. The latter marks the true starting point of his spiral: he breaks a glass into shards in his mouth and leaves abruptly, spitting blood. 

As Joseph’s behaviour grows erratic and nervous facial tics begin to appear, the film picks up speed. The camera stays with its protagonist, who is propelled into an increasingly frantic race through London. This is not a pleasant thing to watch, in fact Surge succeeds in creating a tremendous sense of discomfort through the impeccable sound mixing and vertiginous camera movement, as well as Joseph’s increasingly unpredictable actions.

Whishaw’s transformation here is astonishing: the well behaved and docile man from the film’s beginning makes way for someone entirely different – a change which is reflected in his entire physicality. It’s undoubtedly Whishaw who keeps the film compelling with his startling performance, even when the script stumbles somewhat in the final half hour.

An extremely promising debut feature, Surge is at times a dizzyingly fast paced film, in which Karia has created a unique viewing experience. Ultimately, however, its resolution offers neither catharsis or explanation.



CAST: Ben Whishaw, Ellie Haddington, Jasmine Jobson, Ian Gelder

DIRECTOR: Aneil Karia

WRITERS: Rita Kalnejais, Rupert Jones

SYNOPSIS: 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.