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Emergency Review: Thrilling and socially relevant

Directed by Carey Williams, Emergency is based on his 2018 short film of the same name.

  • Arya Harikumar

Last Updated: 04.23 AM, Jun 10, 2022

Emergency Review: Thrilling and socially relevant

Story: Three boys of colour find themselves in trouble when they discover an unconscious white girl in their house. They must figure out a way to escape from the situation without getting the cops involved.

Review: There is no dearth of movies on college life and parties in Hollywood. While most of them are forgettable and cliched, a few stand out, and Emergency is one such film. Right from the off, we get a sense of what’s in store and we realise that the film is unlike any other college-party-gone-wrong movie.

Kunle and Sean, two Black students, plan a night of partying and are all set to be the first Black men to complete a “legendary tour” at Buchanan, their college. But their plans take a backseat when they discover a white girl passed out on the floor of the house that they share with their Latino friend, Carlos. Carlos was way too involved in his video game to notice the girl entering the house. The three boys find themselves in a dilemma — whether they should get the law enforcement involved. And then Sean says, “They’re (the cops) just gonna come in here and see three Brown guys hanging over this little white girl. Do you all not see how f**ked that is?” His fear is genuine. He knows that even if they are innocent, there is a strong possibility that the cops won’t believe them. The three boys finally decide to take her to the hospital, but things do not go as expected.

Parallelly, the girl’s sister, Maddie, and her friends try to track her down. By now we know that the girl’s name is Emma and she is a high schooler, which makes matters even worse. Fearing for her sister’s life, Maddie pursues Sean’s van.

Directed by Carey Williams, Emergency is based on his 2018 short film of the same name. The friendship between Kunle and Sean forms the crux of the film. Kunle is a bright student who has earned a place at Princeton, whereas Sean is a slacker. When they first discover the girl, Kunle’s immediate reaction is to dial 911 and seek help from the authorities. His priority is to keep the girl safe. Meanwhile, street-wise Sean is well aware of the repercussions and tries to get himself and his friends out of the situation before anyone else finds out. Very soon we figure out that the choices they make are reflective of their social and financial backgrounds.

Emergency stands on its own due to its writing and character development. Through the characters and the predicament they are in, Williams and screenwriter K D Davila offer a commentary on the racial divide prevalent in the USA. The scene wherein a white couple threatens the boys by recording a video of them and Maddie’s reaction when she sees Kunle and Sean for the first time are indicative of underlying racism. The film also offers a few thrilling and tense moments. Though the boys try to avoid the cops as much as they can, we know that police intervention is inevitable. We are forced to feel their stress and anxiety as the narrative puts the audience in the shoes of the protagonists. However, a more crisp runtime would've elevated the film to greater heights.

RJ Cyler and Donald Elise Watkins deliver convincing performances as Sean and Kunle, respectively. Sebastian Chacon is very likable as Carlos, who bears the brunt of Sean and Kunle’s frustrations. The film also features Maddie Nichols, Sabrina Carpenter, Madison Thompson, and Diego Abraham.

Verdict: Emergency does leave a lot to be desired with its editing, but it delivers a compelling narrative that positions itself as a social commentary on racism in America. The engrossing story and likable characters will keep you engaged till the end.