“Great performances and intense scenes are let down by poorly executed narrative choices”
Spanish director, Pedro C. Alonso’s feature-length debut had a promising premise: a single-location horror thriller with Eddie Marsan in the lead as a radio show host being held hostage and forced to do their hijacker’s bidding live on air. While there are some effectively tense scenes and great performances led by Marsan, a contrived plot and a confusing message ultimately stops Feedback from being truly memorable.
Jarvis Dolan (Eddie Marsan) is the controversial host of radio show The Grim Reality where he slams the British government over political and social issues. Jarvis is told by his boss, Norman Burgess (Anthony Head), to drop the pessimistic discussions on Brexit and Russian interference and rejoin with his former co-host, Andrew Wilde (Paul Anderson), to broadcast more light-hearted shows. Before he goes on air we are introduced to the rest of the cast and their relationships with Jarvis: Julia (Alana Boden) clashes with her overbearing father and technicians Anthony (Alexis Rodney) and Claire (Ivana Baquero) dislike him because, well, he’s an arsehole. There are many stories that work with awful people as our protagonist but this one doesn’t really. The show eventually goes live, and we get a taste of Jarvis’ antagonising speeches, but it isn’t long before two masked men take over the station; holding everyone hostage and forcing Jarvis to stick to their script live on air.
It’s from here that the pacing finally picks up and the tension starts building. Throughout the whole ordeal we’re in Jarvis’ shoes: who are these attackers and why are they targeting Jarvis and the show? The second act contains the best scenes in the film where characters are forced to confess horrific secrets live on air to the world. It takes the necessary time to build the suspense and the restrained camerawork lets the performances carry the emotional weight and dread of what the big reveals could be. The climax for this act is used as a gear change and we finally see what Feedback is really about.
This is where the problems start arising. Feedback wants to ask the question: how justified can enacting terrible acts of violence be? Which is a fine question, except the main issue this film tackles is very sensitive and it would appear that the film did not consider what message they’re sending out. Unfortunately because the issue is tackled at a surface level, it doesn’t work and comes across as a bit tasteless. The film tries to explore certain issues from each character’s perspectives but not enough time is spent with them to get a clear message across to the audience. Here is something to be said about people of power getting away with terrible acts but the way Feedback is structured and shot makes it seem like the film wants us to sincerely sympathise with characters we’re meant to view as truly disgusting; even after the blood-soaked finale.
As well as all the twists and turns in the plot, Feedback leads us to question what is to come next in terms of the quality of filmmaking and narrative design. Marsan proves he can carry a film in a leading role but unfortunately director Alonso hasn’t quite knocked it out the park with storytelling.
Directed by: Pedro C. Alonso
Produced by: Borja Pena, Emma Lustres, Juan Sola, Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Eddie Marsan, Paul Anderson, Ivana Baquero, Richard Blake, Oliver Coopersmith, Alexis Rodney, Anthony Head, Alana Boden
Available: On Digital and In Theatres (17/01/20)