Director Juliane Block casts a mind-bending spotlight on the subject of sexual assault through the visage of a harrowing survival thriller in 3 Lives. Block pairs up with actress Mhairi Calvey this time around with a script by Wolf Peter-Arand that centers on a psychiatrist who finds herself on the run in a heavily-wooded forest with two men tied to her traumatic past.
Calvey plays Emma, awakened in a cage in underground, frightened and later approached by two other individuals mysteriously captured as well. Seconds later they manage to free her, only to reveal themselves as Ben (Tyron Ricketts), her convicted rapist from fifteen years ago, and Jamie (Martin Kaps), Ben’s supposed defender during trial, triggering Emma’s defenses.
Upon exiting the cave, they’re instantly pursued by a trio of sadistic solider-like foes, later revealed to be members of the French foreign legion. As to why they’re so pursuant of Emma and her male counterparts remains to be seen, as does the purpose of this seemingly “chance” reunion between an ex-con and his former victim.
The brunt of the film is all about our characters as their mettle is tested between every tree, hill, river and rock while trying to find food and shelter until they can fully escape. In between that period is a constant psychological battle with themselves over what to believe, how it all connects and who is truly responsible for their current predicament.
Emma can’t fully trust Ben, but is observant of his clear-cut skills as a survalist and fighter and mostly trusts that he knows what he’s doing. In contrast, Jamie comes across as much more innocuous. He complains about the smallest cut on his face after being “tortured”, and is consistently willing to abandon either of his cohorts at the drop of a dime if it meant his survival.
Fueling the chase is unrelenting French legionaire Thoms (Anatole Taubman) and his two deranged subordinates. The trio prove to be intergral for about 90 percent of tue film until the plot winds down, that’s when the film suddenly jolts you with a major plot twist that instantly reshapes the film entirely, forcing you to rethink what it was you just watched.
Once again, Block sets female empowerment center stage for her endeavors here following last year’s thriller, 8 Remains. That film’s star, actress Maja-Celine Probst, carries over to Block’s new film in a fashion similar to what David Fincher once accomplished, although Block does so in a somewhat bizzare manner that leaves you vulnerable to perplexity. It’s a mental splash of cold water in your face, really.
3 Lives doesn’t warrant too much criticism here. Its measured production values, visionary construction and tone-change notwithstanding, the purpose here is undoubtedly identifiable and palpable. It helps that the film is carried by good performances on the part of its cast and modest fight and stunt action and spectacle add some requisite moments of excitement to what would have otherwise been another snoozer if Block was at all a terrible director.
Mildly flawed and far from perfect, 3 Lives still manages to tell a riveting story with compelling intrigue and suspense, topped with some fisticuffs and danger to boot. Calvey, who debuted in Mel Gibson’s sophomore directing credit, Braveheart (1995), took to an action short a few years back titled Eden Grey, and I’ve continually hoped to see her in similar roles. 3 Lives is a little something different, but still fleshes out some of Calvey’s best, as well as Block’s.
Make no mistake though. This one ends on something of a bittersweet finish. The tail-end messaging is a righteous and well-intended one, but its packaging with the film’s story progression is not without its share of casualties. Whether or not justice is served or the means of it attaining it has any merit is up to you. 3 Lives is a good thriller with a positive sidebar – just don’t lose your footing while watching.
3 Lives is now available on DVD and VOD from High Octane Pictures.