Based on a story by Producer/Director Juliane Block (Kinks 2011, Train Station 2-15), fleshed out by Producer/Writer Wolf-Peter Arand (In the Gallery 2014, 8 Remains 2018), and due out on DVD and digital platforms from August 6th, 2019 via High Octane Pictures, 3 Lives aims to be the next nail-biting pictures. That said, does it live up to its promises, or fall short of them?
The story already sounds tense enough. When Emma (Mhairi Calvey: Braveheart 1995, Robert the Bruce 2019) wakes up in an abandoned bunker, she realizes she is not alone. She is stuck in there with two men she remembers from her high school days- Ben (Tyron Ricketts: SOKO Leipzig series, Dogs of Berlin 2018) and Jamie (Martin Kaps: Blockbustaz series, Die Expats 2018). Yet this is not a happy reunion. In the past, one of these men sexually assaulted her, but now they are her only means of escape from their captors; 3 ex-soldiers determined to keep them confined. It is up to Emma to find out just why they were captured, and who her real enemy is.
3 Lives certainly does not waste time, zipping through its intro with a coastal shot before closing right in on the captured Emma. Though it does give the audience a flashback to explain just what led up to these circumstances. Emma works as a therapist one minute, jogs the next, gets kidnapped, and title card. It even provides some foreshadowing, as Emma treats another former rape victim (Maja-Celiné Probst: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You 2016, Liebesstreifen 2018) before her capture. Sadly, she provides the duffest performance of the bunch. Her appearance is relatively brief, though it is not the strongest first impression. Ricketts’ Ben is also uneven, as sometimes he works out well, and other times he comes off flat.
Still, the rest of the cast quickly pick up the slack with some solid performances – particularly Calvey – that adds to the film’s building suspense. Viewers can feel how begrudging Calvey’s Emma is towards Ricketts’ Ben, and they cannot blame him either. There is a history there that is gradually uncovered, enough to be wary of Ben. Though things are not exactly sunshine and roses between her character and Kaps’ Jamie either. They have no choice but to work together to survive, yet things threaten to boil over between the three.
The soldiers (Anatole Taubman, Victor Alfieri, Pete Riley) are worse after all. They are more sadistic, revelling in their hunt and torment of the trio, though they have less dimensions than them by comparison. They are as much plot devices as characters- forcing the main characters on the run, pressing them into situations to get them to talk. They do get more fleshing out, though only as part of the uncovering mystery. Someone had to have sent them after all, and it keeps the viewers guessing. The film even throws a few red herrings along the way, while working in some more subtle foreshadowing. Its big twist is a little familiar – familiar enough for comparisons to give the game away – but it sort of works. Maybe?
There is a thread of ‘revenge vs forgiveness’ regarding Emma’s rape, and the twist feels like a way of Block and Arand having both. It certainly provides food for thought, especially when the film ends on some facts about sexual abuse and violence (like 94% of the adult female crew members being victims of such). The emotional impact, however, may vary. It does feel like it could have done with some fleshing out, or required a less familiar twist, to make it hit harder.
In the end, 3 Lives succeeds in being a tense chase film with some sly writing, and even respect towards its topic. Rape is not some titillating horror fodder like in 1978’s I Spit on Your Grave, but a serious issue with psychological complications that have to be dealt with. Its flaws – the uneven acting overall and familiar twist – are not enough to scupper it entirely. Though it might be best to get it for cheap or catch it digitally first. Thus, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives 3 Lives 3.5 out of 5 stars.