Directed By Nicholas Jarecki
Starring – Gary Oldman, Armie Hammer, Evangeline Lilly
The Plot – Three stories about the world of opioids collide: a drug trafficker (Hammer) arranges a multi-cartel Fentanyl smuggling operation between Canada and the U.S., an architect (Lilly) recovering from an OxyContin addiction tracks down the truth behind her son’s involvement with narcotics, and a university professor (Oldman) battles unexpected revelations about his research employer, a drug company with deep government influence bringing a new “non-addictive” painkiller to market.
Rated R for drug content, violence, and adult language throughout
– Thoroughly in-depth. In breaking the barrier of accessibility to the underworld drug trafficking of pharmaceutical opioids plaguing our world, Jarecki spares no parties or blame for those responsible, outlining the problem as a whole in a way that proves there are many spokes on the wheel that continuously helps it to keep spinning. Even more disgusting than the manufacturers and sellers, whose soul intention is the greed for green that makes the world go round, it’s the abundance of corporations and law enforcement who turn a blind eye to the world’s number one killer of people, which in turn highlights how such a trade has become so immensely devastating on its path to destruction. Jarecki’s details and exposition avoids feeling heavy handed, but above that competently sews the seeds of unnerving resonance in ignorance that washes over the audience with painful reminder time and time again, challenging us to be better for each of us who knows someone who was permanently affected by such a disease.
– Familiar faces. The work of Oldman, Hammer, and Lilly are stellar in enhancing the qualities of their performances where the direction occasionally lacks, especially Lilly, who I credit with an eye opening turn that may ultimately define the entirety of her career. As this reeling mother, we immerse ourselves in a lot of her pain for past demons that have unfortunately determined the single greatest relationship in her life, made all the more riveting by Lilly’s ever-growing fragility that carves out no shortage of empathy for her redemption story. Oldman and Hammer are both exceptionally effective, commanding much of the attention of the audience each time they’re on screen, and instilling much of the urgency in between moments of the film that so desperately require it to get itself out of some muddy waters. In addition to the leads, there’s an equally gifted supporting cast that would be a disservice if I spoiled their involvement, so instead I will just say that Jarecki really knows how to assemble enough star power to grant his already important film all of the attention that it very much deserves.
– Emotional complexity. In his first feature length film as a musical composer, Raphael Reed audibly illustrates the varying degrees of difficulty in the story, both personally and thematically, and essentially elevates the range in these scenes that wouldn’t feel as impactful without his touch. Aside from using a variety of instruments, which keeps each of his compositions free from redundancy, it’s Reed’s unraveling for instrumentals that outlines a journey we can vividly take with our eyes closed, making the most of the movie’s often startling volume capacity that feels right at home with an action thriller of this caliber. As is especially the case with the movie’s climatic third act, Rapheal narrates the face behind the chaos that the movie’s visuals piece together so unapologetically with ominously rampant rendering of the most mood-setting kind, and puts a cap on a buzzworthy score that really has me curious to see what he will do next.
– Distinguishing marks. Much of the subtlety in design by certain characters experiencing the clutches of drugs, or even the permanence of death are brought to focus with a detailed make-up influence that attains believability with a surprising measure of subtlety. Instead of reaching for the shock factor with designs that are obvious and lacking of respectability, there’s a measure to the coloring that more ideally tell the story of the struggle within this person’s captivity, adding layers to the transformations that have made them unrecognizable to the loved ones who are hit just as hard emotionally as these victims are hit physically. It’s not that this is a big section of focus for the movie’s stimulating visuals, it’s just that I was so impressed by this afterthought of an element within the movie’s production that I mentally couldn’t shake it, and as someone who has unfortunately seen this kind of humbling in person, I can tell you that the make-up department did an amazing job with what materializes.
– Disjointed pieces. While it is true that the best kind of profound cinema involves many tiers to its plot, the level of storytelling in this film is every bit convoluted as it is arduously pieced with how these respective subplots fit together in conjunction with one another. Oldman’s subplot, while the most eye-opening in terms of the influence that Big Pharma plays on overstepping rules and procedures, feels out of place with that of Hammer and Lilly’s, who do share a bit of connective tissue once the movement in their conflicts draw them together. For my money, theirs was the most intriguing arc of the story for me personally, but because this script makes a decision early on to share each of their arc’s equally throughout the narrative, the promise in progression from them throughout will only be temporary, as we come to expect any minute that our enjoyment will be halted to check back in with what feels like an entirely different film already in progress.
– Weak characters. This is with the exception of Lilly’s Claire, who receives enough of a backstory to rid her of the problematic formula that Jarecki hangs over Oldman and Hammer like a dark cloud. Instead of building the characters first over the story, he very much does the opposite, and while I understand that this is an ensemble piece where the characters are drawn together with one common issue, it makes it all the more difficult to invest in said characters if we don’t truly know them before the chaos became present. Such an example is with Hammer’s Jake Kelly, a typical tough-guy FBI agent without a shred of humanity to stir into his coldly bland pot. If the film used some of its ample run time to flesh him out outside of the office during the first act, then it would be all the easier to understand his occasionally cryptic character motivations, which are pretty stupid for an FBI agent. Oldman is slightly better, but he’s still very one-dimensional, in that you could write everything about his character in a single sentence, in ten words or less.
– Technical blunders. There are two that are violently compromising, and quite frequently broke my investment towards the film, which was already minimal because of problems previously mentioned. For the second time in a week, I will complain about horrendously awful audio deposits, which in this case are so bad that I often thought they were leading into a montage with a character narrating what’s to come. It’s so unintentionally humorous that I recommend this film on this element alone, and beg someone else to watch the first sequence with Oldman and Greg Kinnear, and pay close attention to their lips when we are hearing lines of dialogue. Then there’s the choppy editing through the movie’s few action sequences, which take a book out of the Jason Bourne franchise, not for quality, mind you, but rather for a series of violently unnecessary cuts that distorts what we’re seeing, and harms the vantage point of the audience during the sequences meant to dazzle us.
– Incessantly dull. Whether you blame this on the near two hour runtime, which is unjustified for as many slow points in the film that there are, or the complete lack of originality in story movements from other films that did it better, either outline a boring experience that nearly put me to sleep, and muddle what should be a compelling watch. If you use these two, why not consider a third log for the fire? In the fact that a majority of this film uses a tell-and-not-show formula, which limits the action or thriller elements of this supposed action thriller in favor of a blanket of long-winded exposition dumps along the way. If this is the story you are going with, and wish to include everything that the film touched on, surely you could do it in a hundred minutes flat, and not lose a single subplot or authenticity to the materialization of these events. “Crisis” might not be the worst film I’ve seen in 2021, but it’s certainly the most boring of the twenty I’ve seen so far.
– Flat resolution. There was an appreciation that I had for the film during its final twenty minutes, where it didn’t feel like it was catering to a particular agenda, or trying to instill good feelings for the sake of an audience experience. I say this because the closing moments feel like a manipulation of everything previously established, especially considering it contradicts this element of hard to swallow authenticity that the film had going for it, only to throw it away on a series of stitched together scenes that feel a bit too desperate to satisfy me internally. It only cemented what a majority of the film already conveyed to me mentally, and was the deciding factor in taking “Crisis” from a soft recommend, to an unfortunate pass.
My Grade: 5/10 or D+