The Next Three Days
Director: Paul Haggis | Run time: 122 mins
Film review by Dan Collacott
Suspense/prison break type films are not a genre I really lean towards, especially if they have that overproduced glossy Hollywood feel and are adapted from some god awful novel. Although a fine actor I am also not a massive Russell Crowe fan, so you'd wonder how or why I watched this film. Well I caught it at a double film showcase; but I want to state early on that this film defied all my expectations.... in a good way.
Based on the French film Pour Elle or Anything for Her (was that a book as well?) The Next Three Days has elements of Law Abiding Citizen and Falling Down and is ludicrously far fetched. Despite this you spend the whole film rooting for mild mannered College professor John Brennan to accomplish his unlikely goal of breaking his wife from jail. The attention to detail is intentionally minute and gratifying, the pace towards the end is also gripping edge of the seat stuff.
So onto the plot without spoon feeding you spoliers. Brennan's loving wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) is the typical beautiful and needlessly cast Hollywood actress (why can't they occasionally realise we don't marry perfect looking blonde hotties). Lara by a sudden and brutal twist of fate ends up jailed for the murder of her boss. Brennan is subsequently left to scratch around for unlikely grounds for appeal and look after their little boy (Ty Simpkins) whose relationship with his incarcerated mum deteriorates as a result. We don't know if she committed the crime until the very end so at no point do you want to deliberately fall off the moral middle ground and side with a potential murderer.
There are three sections presented in the film, three years, three weeks and the final three days of the title. It is in those final 72hrs we see the fruits of all of Brennan's meticulous toil and preparation to free his wife. Preparation that has seen him mixing perilously with the seedy criminal underworld and on several occasions we get to watch uncomfortably as his plans teeter chaotically on the edge. In fact it is at the points when Brennan's attempts to road test the escape stumble and fail that we see the value of Crowe's acting. He plays a man on the brink and losing his reason superbly, in fact the strength of Crowe's performance is possible reason alone to stop this film from sliding into cliché.
The pace and the direction are handled perfectly, Crowe's portrayal isn't macho and you believe in his vulnerability even if it is hard to believe a teacher would turn felon in quite the way it happens here. I rarely took notice of the peripheral characters though, especially the yummy mummy who takes a slight interest in Brennan and son.
The bottom line is I walked out of the theatre feeling like my emotions had embarked on an emotional roller coaster and as a result was presently surprised. I would even watch the film again given the chance.