“SURGE”— A Change of Behavior

“SURGE”

A Change of Behavior

Amos Lassen

Joseph (Ben Whishaw) is a British airport security officer who responds to his alienating environment by snapping and going on a crime spree. Director Aneil Karia, however, takes us away from the fantasy of white male grievance that it could have been.

Joseph’s snap is more of a crumbling as we see when Joseph has to pat down an older traveler who seems to recognize him. Joseph has never met him before, can’t remember him, or won’t acknowledge any past with him. The man complains that the metal-detector wand is burning his skin and tells Joseph to follow him in exactly 63 seconds before running, only for security to immediately subdue him. Even if the man doesn’t know Joseph, he suggests that they are comrades in psychosis, allowing Joseph to recognize some kind of aberration in himself, even though it might just be a product of his imagination.

Joseph’s reaction escalates by doing a favor for his co-worker, Lily (Jasmine Jobson), by fixing her television set. The job calls for a cheap cable, but when the ATM eats his bank card, he goes to the bank, but they won’t accept his bus pass as identification. He writes a note saying he has a gun, and the teller empties the register. The bank robbery, combined with that of the unanticipated sex he has with Lily begins a chain reaction of norm-shattering behavior.

Filmed with a handheld camera that remains close to Whishaw’s face is both nauseating and exhilarating as we see Joseph’s disorientation.  

Joseph revenges himself on objects and his spree is seen as inevitableand inevitably short-lived. Bythe end,  Joseph’s gun turns out to be a banana and the wounds he’s sustained to his face become joyful.

Whitshaw’s performance is incredible and burning. He provokes people into beating him up on the streets of London but by the end his whole experience is like being trapped in a broken-down subway car with a mental patient.

Joseph’s increasingly manic mood is so strange that it’s almost believable. The film continues with incident after incident, until it just stops giving us very little about Joseph except that he’s very unhappy.

Frantic, kinetic energy propels the film but it never seems entirely sure where it has been or where it is going.

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