Imagine a TFL-based Falling Down with the nervy edge of Uncut Gems and you’re halfway there with this jagged indie about an airport security guard, Joseph (Ben Whishaw), who shakes off social norms and lets his id roam free over 24 hours. It’s not on a par with either of those thrillers but offers a skittish ride for anyone prepared to strap in. Director Aneil Karia, whose past credits include Top Boy and a string of acclaimed shorts, frames it all with lo-fi visuals that make other shakycam filmmaking feel positively stately.
A high tolerance for Surge’s fast-and-loose aesthetic is essential. Every frame is juiced up with Joseph’s breakneck recklessness and the sensory overload of the city streets. The camera lurches and spins, struggling to keep up as its protagonist darts along the high street (the exact locations are kept blurry). Whishaw imbues him with a manic energy and an almost childlike sense of wonder as he pushes things further and further, gatecrashing a wedding and even launching into an impromptu bank robbery. Distant police sirens are a reminder of the stakes.
Paired with a seriously-against-type Whishaw’s hyperactive performance, it’s relentless stuff. But its treatment of mental health – assuming Joseph is suffering a form of mania, as it seems when he breaks down at work – is superficial at best. Beyond hinting at a damaging relationship with his cantankerous parents (Ellie Haddington and Ian Gelder), Surge is more about capturing the helter-skelter journey than digging into what sparked it. It feels a little too skin deep; a film content to get by on its vicarious thrills. And the rush eventually wears off.
In UK cinemas and on PVOD Fri May 28.