FEEDBACK (2019)

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Studio:      Breaking Glass Pictures
Director:    Pedro C. Alonso
Writer:      Pedro C. Alonso, Beto Bussi
Producer:  Borja Pena, Emma Lustres, Juan Sola, Jaume Collet-Serra
Stars:     Eddie Marsan, Paul Anderson, Ivana Baquero, Richard Brake, Oliver Coopersmith, Alana Boden, Alexis Rodney, Nacho Aldeguer, Anthony Head

Review Score:

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Summary:

A divisive talk show host must unravel a mystery involving his former broadcast partner after two masked men storm a radio studio and take him captive.


Synopsis:     

Review:

¡°Feedback¡± put such a dim blip on my radar, I didn¡¯t expect much from the movie. It wasn¡¯t one of the buzzier films to come out of FrightFest 2019. It sort of dribbled onto DVD and Amazon streaming in the UK without major genre outlets really mentioning it at all. Its scattered release pattern meant one half of the world would have moved on by the time it debuted on VOD months later in America too.

It also seemed strange that an actor of Eddie Marsan¡¯s considerable caliber would have somehow sunk to paycheck parts in direct-to-video rubbish at a time when his career is still cruising. Since that didn¡¯t track, I opted to push past the unfavorable IMDb user reviews and piddly 5.3 rating and give the flick a go.

I couldn¡¯t be more pleased by my decision to trust my instincts instead of the trolling. Because ¡°Feedback¡± may be one of the year¡¯s most consistently gripping thrillers.

You don¡¯t have to dig deep into negative comments to discover what the actual sore spot is for naysayers. You see, Marsan plays Jarvis Dolan, a controversial talk show host whose radio program blames Russian interference and billionaire boardrooms for Brexit. Jarvis¡¯ pot-stirring politics recently invited ¡°fascist thugs¡± to give him a beatdown for calling out social media corporations that promote post-truth propaganda solely to profit off racism and fear-mongering.

People whose personal beliefs lean in another direction want you to believe ¡°Feedback¡± pushes a particular agenda. In their hurry to dismiss the film for an imaginary infraction, what they refuse to acknowledge is that after Marsan¡¯s two-minute monologue, you never hear another related word from his mouth.

¡°Feedback¡± merely means to establish Jarvis as someone whose troublemaking tongue draws multiple targets on his back. It¡¯s a method meant to chum the initial mystery with red herrings so when two masked men subsequently storm the studio and hold Jarvis hostage, you can¡¯t quite be sure who he pissed off or why. This is a man with enemies to spare.

Considering that the story eventually colors every character with some shade of grey, it¡¯s laughable to even suggest ¡°Feedback¡± props up anyone as having a superior stance on anything, particularly Jarvis. The film¡¯s ability to sustain suspense comes from its skill at flipping audience sympathies every time a new background breadcrumb drops. With hindsight, it¡¯s easy to see the story in a straight line. But because it unfolds in precise pieces, the film never lets your predictions outpace the plot in the moment. You regularly wonder, ¡°wait a minute¡± while rethinking what you already know as each revelation alters everyone¡¯s arcs.

Starting with a stage play style of setup, ¡°Feedback¡± builds a pressure cooker scenario from the rising heat of exceptionally aggressive performances. Eddie Marsan fantastically uses his face, posture, and motions to convey every internal question he is asking, every detail he is examining, and every option he is considering. There¡¯s never any doubt regarding what¡¯s going on in Jarvis¡¯ mind as he frantically fights to figure out how to escape his situation while being forced to continue his broadcast as though nothing is wrong.

Richard Brake gets to run a similar gamut as one of Marsan¡¯s adversaries. Brake¡¯s expertly alternating expressions fill in when dialogue takes a break, physically telling us whenever his main motivation is doubt, determination, or rage-fueled revenge.

Writer/director Pedro C. Alonso also uses the movie, his first feature film, to showcase his talents for ratcheting anxiety like an unrelenting vice across an increasingly intriguing narrative. ¡°Feedback¡± confines itself to a single studio for a majority of the movie without feeling choking or cheap. Cinematographer Angel Iguacel¡¯s creative camera regularly remembers to pan, tilt, or dolly so motion constantly compensates for the setting¡¯s constriction.

As rich as it is with reinforced suspense, ¡°Feedback¡± fumbles its fiction over a buggered finale. Frustratingly, the camera cuts to black well before a proper resolution can bring full circle satisfaction. Even before that, techniques such as a sprinkler system simulating rain during slow motion come on strong for a film that until this point, made its mood out of nerve-wracking thrills, not fabricated flair.

Although I think crossing arms over misperceived political commentary is worth an eye roll, other themes present more of a potential problem. At a time when abuse of power and believing women are more topically timely than ever, one can argue ¡°Feedback¡± chooses certain paths that don¡¯t favor a particularly woke message about moral consequences. As much as I tried to take ¡°Feedback¡± only as entertainment, I¡¯m uncomfortable universally recommending the movie because some suggested subtext can be interpreted in a way that won¡¯t sit right with everyone.

Factoring faults first, the film¡¯s ending earns a C, which tips toward being generous. Touchy triggers earn a D. But the solid hour between the padded prologue and choppy climax delivers astonishingly A-grade suspense.

Forget the fizzled fanfare and take a chance on a movie more people should praise for outstanding acting and fist-clenching tension. If you¡¯re an Eddie Marsan fan at all, you¡¯ll be thoroughly riveted by the performance he puts up here. If you¡¯re not already a Marsan fan, ¡°Feedback¡± might make you one.

Review Score: 80