Linda Cook review: ‘Crisis’ is above-average trilogy of stories about opioid problem

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A better-than-average fictional drama has a sad realism at its core.

“Crisis” about the opioid epidemic – its victims, its users and those caught up in trying to end it. Written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki “Arbitrage,”) the film has three story lines, all interconnected. Its capable stars make it worth seeing.

  • Claire (Evangeline Lilly) is a former addict who begs for help: Her son just has died from an overdose.
  • Professor Tyrone Brower (the always-marvelous Gary Oldman) leads a research team that finds the drug has deadly effects when it’s tested.
  • Jake (Armie Hammer,) an undercover DEA drug agent, takes his work personally: His sister is an oxycodone addict.

The story follows Claire while she hunts for clues to her son’s death – she suspects a criminal element may have been involved. We also follow Jake while he hunts down a group of drug dealers and remains frustrated with his sister. These two tales are interesting but not especially surprising.

My favorite part of the trilogy involves Tyrone and his moral dilemma, made all the more compelling with the presence of Greg Kinnear, the voice of the university that employs Tyrone, who ultimately must make a difficult decision: Does he listen to his conscience or keep his job?

Oldman gives his character the most depth, and he deservedly earns a lot of the film’s time with all kinds of personal and professional situations playing into his between-a-rock-and-a-hard place plight that involves the institution and financial wellbeing of a respected institution as well as the interests of big pharma.

I also appreciated Lilly’s performance as the desperate mother who refuses to be brushed off by anyone she encounters.

“Crisis” isn’t as troubling or memorable as the 2000 film “Traffic,” but at least it forces the audience to consider how complex the opioid crisis from several perspectives.

The stories might have been even more engaging had they been presented as a trilogy of feature-length films. We could have learned more about Claire’s past, and her son’s life; how the colleagues played by Kinnear and Oldman have interacted in the past; and more about drives Jake and how he and his family have dealt with his sister’s addiction.

“Crisis” may not be on any of the “Best Of” lists at the end of the year. But it’s worth a look and its themes are worth contemplating.

2 ½ stars

At Cinemark, Davenport.

Running time: Not quite two hours.

Rated: R for foul language, drug abuse and violence.

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