The opioid epidemic is the setting for Nicholas Jarecki’s Crisis. The film looks at the issue from different angles by using three storylines (two of which converge) that allow the film to explore the pain caused by this problem as well as ethical and law enforcement issues that complicate the issue in many ways. The film rapidly flips from one story to another.
Jake Kelly (Armie Hammer) is an undercover DEA agent who is working to bring together a sting that will break up an international fentanyl smuggling operation. Kelly has a sister who is struggling with addiction. His operation has him serving as a middle man between Detroit drug dealers and a supplier in Montreal. As he tries to negotiate the dangerous landscape of such an operation, he is also brought back to the consequences of addiction as he tries to deal with his sister.
The emotional side of the story focuses on Claire Reimann (Evangeline Lilly), a woman with a past of opioid problems whose son goes missing. When he is found dead, he seems to have overdosed. But it becomes evident that this was not an accident, but a murder to deal with loose ends of a smuggling operation that her son unwittingly was part of. As she seeks to find out more, it will lead her to Montreal as well.
The more complex storyline focuses on ethical and business aspects of the opioid issue. Dr. Tyrone Brower (Gary Oldman) is an academic who does research for at a university. In doing tests on a prospective non-addictive painkiller about to be approved, he discovers some disturbing information. But he faces several dilemmas, including being offered a huge amount of money to underwrite his lab (if he’s willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement), and threats to his reputation and job. Should he blow the whistle and risk everything he has? What is his responsibility to the university? What is his responsibility to society as a whole?
This storyline also takes us into the Big Pharma business world where companies are looking for profits, but at what cost to society? Is their product a blessing or a curse? Will the profits from the new drug make it possible to develop even better ones?
The storylines focusing on Jake Kelly and Claire Reimann create a crime/thriller kind of film. The tension builds throughout the film to lead to a showdown that will end up with gunfire and death. But this is a storyline that grows out of anger and pain. It looks for revenge and making someone pay. There really isn’t anything new in this part of the film.
I found the Dr. Brower narrative much more interesting. It asks questions that are important to consider, both on about academia and the business world and their responsibilities to society. The question is brought up in various ways concerning doing what is practical, what is profitable, and what is right. I thought this plotline could have easily been expanded to be a complete film in itself by delving a bit deeper into the business and governmental aspects that are only briefly touched on.
Crisis is available in theaters (where open) and coming soon to VOD.
Photos by Philippe Bosse, courtesy of Quiver Distribution.