Review by Darren Gaskell
Jarvis Dolan (Eddie Marsan) is the host of late night/early morning radio show The Grim Reality, in which he gives his outspoken views on the hot topics of the day as well as crossing swords with the listening public. With the show’s ratings declining the head of the station brings in Andrew Wilde (Paul Anderson), Jarvis’ co-host from many years ago, in an attempt to revitalise the programme.
However, before Wilde has even taken up his place at the mic, two masked men invade the almost-deserted station and kidnap Dolan’s assistants on the mixing desk, threatening to harm them if Dolan doesn’t go on the air and do exactly what they tell him to. As the minutes pass, Dolan is forced to confront the ramifications of a horrible event from the past while trying to keep those around him alive.
Feedback sets its stall out quickly, establishing Dolan as a smart, charismatic, no-nonsense type who relies on stirring up the feelings of his listeners even though he may fervently disagree with their views and, yes, their politics. The B-word (sorry, going to have to mention it just once – Brexit) is given an airing in the opening few minutes but you can all let out a sigh of relief because the film isn’t concerned with the pros and cons of that particular situation, it’s just setting the scene as to the powder keg of opinions Dolan is more than willing to ignite.
Equally, it wastes little time in getting the peripheral characters out of the location and letting the menace in so the story can get down to the business of the confrontation between Dolan, Wilde and their captors. From then on, the tension rarely lets up as the story ventures into some extremely dark territory and our allegiances with those involved shifts back and forth as what went on all those years ago is slowly revealed. Even then, whose account can we trust?
This is a confident feature debut from director Pedro C. Alonso (who’s also on co-writer duties along with Alberto Marini) which benefits enormously from a cracking, complex central performance from Eddie Marsan who, let’s face it, very rarely disappoints. His Dolan is not your common or garden shouty shock jock. He’s level-headed, whip-smart, informed and in control. You know there’s always something going on under the surface as Dolan looks to make his next play, knowing that a wrong move may be his last.
Anderson provides sharp contrast as Wilde, whose big personality and temperamental, sweary, banter-filled view of life in general gives a glimpse into what an uneasy but successful pairing he and Dolan must have been previously. In this dangerous situation, is it Wilde’s bluster that’s going to aggravate matters and, if so, can Dolan somehow make sure no harm comes to either of them?
There’s also fine support from the rest of the cast, including the excellent Richard Brake as a character whose presence becomes pivotal to how the second half of the movie develops. Feedback brings most of the expected tropes of the intruder movie but plays these out extremely well and cleverly plays with our feelings about exactly whose side we should be on. The final reveal isn’t totally unexpected but it’s delivered with chilling aplomb and even throws in a twisted race against time.
For the UK, Feedback has been rated 18 and this is not altogether surprising, given that the tension is punctuated with savage, breath-taking bursts of violence which are sparsely but skilfully deployed. There’s one particular moment involving some scissors which is absolutely horrible to see played out for more than one reason and although hardened horror hounds will probably be attuned to this kind of thing I’ll still warn the more casual fan that it’s not for the squeamish.
Feedback is unlikely to be the most original horror film you’ve ever seen but when something like this is done this well, who cares? Its first-rate work from Marsan would be enough to recommend it but there’s tension to spare, unflinchingly gory violence and a thoroughly unsettling ending. Tune in to it.
Rating: 4 / 5