In thinking about Carey Williams’ “Emergency” in theaters for a week before premiering on Amazon Prime, I didn’t realize how ironic and prophetic “May you live in interesting times” would be in describing the film.

As an “English expression claimed to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse,” “Emergency” paints an intelligent story of “the interesting” times we live. Centered around two highly intellectual college students, Sean (RJ Cyler), a well-intentioned slacker, and Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins), a brilliant and self-aware individual, are about to head to Spring Break. Before they can do that, though, they must endure a professor bent on inciting a triggering event for the duo, both of whom are Black.

“Emergency” is based on the 2018 Sundance Special Jury Prize-winning short film of the same name written by KD Davila. Davila’s story culls a bit of the disturbing drama from “Get Out” with the antics from classic college comedies like “Animal House” as Sean and Kunle happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Davila’s story sets every racial inequity and treatment toward the duo as is possible as they try to figure out a solution to a very serious problem, often with comedic and harrowing results.

Yet, as the night unfolds, something brilliant happens. Kunle is a scientist-in-the-making, whip-smart, intelligent, and in denial. While I can understand the denial part, Davila and director Williams use these inequities to tell an intelligent story for the very interesting times we live in as role reversal happens between the two life-long friends, transitioning to the potential curse associated with the above quote.

Enter Sebastien Chacon’s Carlos completing a trifecta of characters. He is blissfully sitting at his computer, unaware of the young girl passed out on the floor of their shared home when Sean and Kunle happen upon her. Cyler’s and Watkins’ reactions are very natural for the unfolding situation, which eventually leads to a chase through the darkness surrounding campus. Carlos starts as “being along for the ride.” Chacon finds his actor’s edge to stand out, not at the expense of Cyler or Watkins; they are the real stars of the show, especially as Kunle experiences genuine fear and Sean experiences actual denial.

The comedy paces the drama when Kunle begins to recognize his foibles, yet Sean’s oafishness imbues the story with just the proper response to the unfolding events.

“Emergency” could have fallen into being “just another movie” about two college students. Davila stays true to the film’s message, and Williams’ direction is succinct. Most of the film is shot at night, giving cinematographer Michael Dallatorre a challenge, which he doesn’t shirk away. Shot in 2.35:1, the wide aspect ratio allowed Dallatorre and Williams to create a more expansive intimacy, given that most of the film is shot inside of a minivan. There is room for the fear to grow naturally within the characters.

Keeping in mind “May you live in interesting times,” “Emergency” plays to its strengths, steadfastly stays its course, and we’re all a little bit better off for being in Sean and Kunle’s shoes for a night.