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‘Surge’ review: Succeeds by focusing on people, not labels

One of the most tense movies of the year.

Surge is one of the most tense movie experiences of the year. Joseph (Ben Whishaw) does security at an airport. It is a thankless job which he does not seem to enjoy. His private life consists of nights alone at his apartment. His only company is the neighbor who endlessly revs his motorcycle all night. After helping a co-worker install her television, his life takes a wild turn.

The story is an interesting look at mental illness. There is no diagnosis or clear moment that can be accurately referred to as the catalyst for Joseph’s actions. The writing in Surge is so good that the focus is completely on its main character. This is a rarity in similar stories as the person becomes secondary to a label. It so to explore the why that the person is forgotten.

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This gives Surge the chance to tell a much more nuanced story. The audience is drawn into Joseph’s life and cannot look away. There is little in the way of a traditional plot, but it is impossible to look away. Whishaw is captivating in the role. Making the performance even more impressive is the sparse dialogue in Surge. Whishaw has to carry the film through his expression and movements. This is done so effortlessly that many will not even notice how little Joseph actually says until the movie has ended.

Though there is little in the way of story and character development, Surge succeeds through its slice of life storytelling. Ben Whishaw is fantastic and the movie’s delicate handling of mental health is a breath of fresh air. Things never let up in one and anyone who watches will spend the entirety of the movie on the edge of their seat. 

Surge comes to theaters and on demand September 24

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