From 1988’s Talk Radio to 2008’s Pontypool, there’s always been something eerie about the mixture of connectedness and isolation that can be found behind the mic of a radio broadcaster. In this year’s Feedback, a Brexit-obsessed radio host, recently attacked by far-right agitators, finds himself under siege in the studio. The hostage-takers have their own complex set of motives, however, and all is not as it appears. Can a host who bemoans the emptiness of our post-truth culture confront the long-buried truths that haunt him?
With a ripped-from-the-headlines story and razor sharp aesthetic, Feedback is a tense and, at times, uncomfortable experience. There’s more than a touch of LBC’s James O’ Brien to Eddie Marsan’s performance as Jarvis Dolan. He expertly captures the exasperation of a radio host who finds himself adrift in a sea of reactionary public opinion. As the heat is turned up, we watch as Jarvis struggles to maintain control and his desperation and fear become palpable.
Other notable performances include Ivana Baquero, who perfectly embodies the fury and resentment of the current climate, and Paul Anderson, who provides an energetic, chaotic counterpoint to Marsan.
When the violence explodes, it is suitably brutal and shocking. The rollercoaster of ratcheting tension counterpointed by explosive carnage is mostly handled well, with only a handful of baggy scenes weighing it down. Aficionados of the ‘hostage situation/home invasion’ sub-genres may find some of the structure a touch predictable, but the central mystery provides engagement and intrigue even when the film is at its most ‘by-the-numbers’.
Unfortunately, the bold aesthetic that Pedro C. Alonso has delivered can undercut some of the film’s messaging and prove distracting. This is a parable from broken, divided Britain – why then is everything so clean and space-age? It’s a contemporary plot in a setting that could be the backdrop to Blade Runner, and that combination tends to fall flat, drawing the eye away from the action even in pivotal scenes.
Overall, Feedback has all of the ingredients of a tense single-location horror-thriller: great performances and a plot that delivers all the requisite twists and turns. Despite drawing directly from our current concerns, however, it fails to provide much that feels innovative. Nonetheless, it remains a solid entry into a much-loved genre.