'Feedback' Review: A Claustrophobic And Relevant Thriller [FrightFest 2019]

Movies with a single setting can be very tricky. You need an air-tight script and phenomenal performances to make the lack of change in scenery work. Though Pedro C. Alonso and Alberto Marini's script could use some tweaking, Feedback is carried by fantastic performances that result in a bleak film that has you look inward at your own biases and prejudices.Jarvis Dolan (Eddie Marsan) is the star host of a prolific London-based late-night radio show called "The Grim Reality." Dolan feels like a king inside his castle, seemingly a nice guy who treats his employees like they're his children and keeps a fun environment at work, but also seems to have a bit of a temper against those he disagrees with. His show is constantly under attack by vocal haters who disagree with Dolan's heated discussions of Russian interference in the Brexit vote, how millionaires treat the people of Britain and other socially pressing issues. Marsan's powerful performance instantly has us consider him an underdog doing what needs to be done at a time when the press is constantly under attack. We slowly settle into the live radio show and realize that this won't be like anyone is expecting. Jarvis realizes that the show has been taken over by armed, masked and highly aggressive invaders that take him hostage and seek to make Jarvis and colleague Andrew Wilde (Paul Anderson) confront their past sins live on air.The directorial debut of Pedro C. Alonso, Feedback takes Oliver Stone' Talk Radioabout the assassination of radio host Alan Berg, and updates it to the #MeToo and post-truth era. Though we follow a clear protagonist and see the story unfold through his eyes, the film asks us who we sympathize with. It's a movie about gaslighting, only you may not be so sure about who is doing the gaslighting. There are many twists and turns that may lose some audience members in the process, but if you stick with this bleak film you'll find a raging and entertaining thriller, even if it makes it hard to root for any characters...while at the same time judging the audience for even trying to sympathize with any of them.The biggest issue with Feedback is the script. Though this is a movie that is heavily dependent on characters, its female characters are little more than archetypes. When they enter the movie, it feels like they're there just to satisfy some plot necessity instead of being actual people. In the end, it even feels like the movie does them a disservice given themes at hand.That being said, the performances are great all around, especially that of Eddie Marsan as Jarvis. He excels at making you instantly fall for him and feel sad about his situation while also giving you a hint that he may be hiding something. He may be a monster, or just a victim, but you're in this journey with Jarvis and he makes the whole thing worthwhile. Despite taking place mostly in a single location, cinematographer Ángel Iguácel knocks it out of the park with bright colors against eerily dark lighting that really accentuates the danger Jarvis is in, and when we do see other rooms, they're all designed with different textures and colors that make for a varied and visually stimulating thrill ride. Likewise, the sound design team take advantage of the radio room setting to make full use of the feedback from different microphones and speaker systems and play with the different pitches and tones that come from that feedback to provide a terrifying experience that enhances the violence. Oh, and if you're worried about a movie with psycho mask killers not having blood, rest assured, Feedback is not afraid to get very bloody, very fast. Though it takes a while to get where it is going, and the ending may come just a tiny bit too late for some, Feedback does built towards a fascinating third act that sets everything that happened before in a new light. It may take away some of the catharsis, but it feels fully intentional, like an angry cry at the state of the world and the institutions that allow these things to happen.Ultimately, Feedback is a nasty film about a nasty world full of wrongdoing and devoid of accountability. It is a hard watch, but one that rewards those who stick with this roller coaster ride of violence and lies./Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10