Directed and written by: Nicholas Jarecki.
In his latest film, Crisis, Arbitrage writer/director Nicholas Jarecki tackles the opioid crisis from the perspective of three people whose lives have been turned upside down by it. First up, we have Jake Kelly (played by Arnie Hammer), a DEA agent working deep undercover to stop a massive drug ring involving several nefarious players. For Jake, the war on drugs is a personal one as his sister is a user herself caught deeply in grips of addiction. Next up, there is Claire Reimann (played by Evangeline Lilly), a single mom and recovering opioid user, who finds herself thrust back into the drug world when her son is mysteriously found dead in an alley (from an apparent overdose). However, upon digging further into his death, discovers a far more sinister truth. Last of these characters we have Dr. Tyrone Brower (played by Gary Oldman), a research scientist hired by a pharmaceutical company to beta test their newest non-addictive anti-pain drug. However, when Brower discovers that this new drug is far more addictive than OxyContin, he finds himself in a moral predicament between the promise of a pharmaceutical company’s funding and the health of the public.
As with his previous movie, Arbitrage, Jarecki takes on a massive problem that has no easy answers and focuses on the choices his characters make to solve it. Undoubtedly, one thing that the story of Crisis makes clear is that there are no winners in the so-called war on drugs, only victims. With that said, if there is one flaw in the film, it’s that the dealers and the drug manufacturers are shown only as unsympathetic and somewhat inhuman figures. Therefore by giving all of the humanity to the trio of protagonists above, Jarecki draws a very thick line between good and evil in his story. As a result, the story at times almost lectures the audience about the evils of opioids without showing more of the humanity of all of its many players. Aside from this nitpick, the film, in addition to its intriguing provides some stellar cinematography that further helps to visually establish the stakes of the story. For instance, one great example of this can be found in a scene in which Brower goes to meet with the pharmaceutical company (mentioned before) - a scene which visually demonstrates, through use of an aerial shot of the company’s interior, illustrates a figuratively "small" Brower in his confrontation with "the giant goliath" that is the pharmaceutical company.
All in all, Crisis is a compelling movie that provides an illuminating look at the opioid problem. The ensemble’s top notch performances along with Jarecki’s masterful directing provides a good and worthwhile movie in Crisis.
Overall grade: A-