The Next Three Days (2010) Review

The Next Three Days is definitely not one of Russell Crowe’s best works, but what the film lacks in believabilty, it more than makes up for with suspense, a dizzying array of unpredictable events and the actors wholeheartedly buying into (and doing a pretty good job with) what writer/director Paul Haggis is offering.

What he’s offering has a great premise. A mild mannered college professor (named John Brennan (Crowe) has his idyllic family life upended when his wife is charged and convicted of murder. Brennan knows in his heart that she’s innocent and slowly begins to contemplate how to ‘bust her out of jail’. I could go further, but the film is much better not knowing the complications.

I believe the film is a remake of a 2008 French thriller called “Pour Elle” (Anything for Her). I haven’t seen that one, but it’s french so I assume it has the same lack of logic that this one does (and why Hollywood is now remaking ‘hit’ foreign flicks so soon after they’re released… Let The Right One In, the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo… is unconscionable. Had I known this was a remake of so recent a film in advance, I would have opted for that one.) There are some things that one might overlook at first, because of the rapidfire sequence of happenings. Haggis never gives the viewer time to think about the details or jumps in logic. That’s one of the film’s better qualities.

The film benefits tremendously from Russell Crowe’s acting talents. He’s one of those actor’s that does an excellent job of getting emotion and intent across without having to verbalize. I did buy him as the ‘everyman’ who was going to extremes to help his wife. He captures what it must be like for a morale, intelligent, law abiding person being forced into doing highly illegal acts (especially) right under the noses of law enforcement officials. He is not the cool operator in this. His character is prone to mistakes and Crowe conveys the angst of the situation quit well.

I also enjoyed the underused Elizabeth Banks, also. She hits all of the right notes, especially when her husband’s plan comes to light.  She could have been given just a little more screen time in the beginning to reinforce why her husband loves her enough to risk everything (namely their son) to get her out of jail. There is a little bit of a twist involving her character that comes in the middle of the film. She sells it well. I did think the subplot of her child rejecting her because she’s in jail was unnecessary adding nothing to the film. The scene with the cops looking for ‘the button’ seemed extraneous also, serving only to make the film longer.

The Next Three Days was suspenseful and unpredictable most of the time. There were several characters that turn up, that you’re not sure if Crowe’s character should trust. There is a little built in paranoia given that this is a suspense film. When Olivia Wilde’s character turns up, I immediately thought “uh oh”, becuase you figure if Olivia Wilde turns up in a suspense film, there may be more to her character than first meets the eye. Some of the lesser known actors probably worked a little better in the supporting roles here. That’s not to say I was disappointed to see her appear. Wilde makes any movie better by her presence.

Liam Neeson who’s been in a few films like this recently has a cameo as a man who has written a book on prison escapes, having been a felon. His time onscreen is brief, but is the lynchpin of the story, I think, informing the main character on what’s expected. Brian Dennehy also makes a small (but noteworthy) appearance as Brennan’s estranged father. He says very little in the film, but I did think added to the story enormously.

The bad part… The movie has a pretense that it’s a well researched thriller, but the film’s world doesn’t stand up to logic. Here forensics investigation results and court ordered warrants are achieved instantaneously. The longer the film goes, the more the viewer is asked to swallow as the events begin to become increasingly less believable. The near-car crash scene is where I think the film hits its climax of ludicrousness. The sequences necessary to keep the story going also are highly unlikely. The cops in the film are given a quite ridiculous degree of supra-genius and tenacity to keep the plot moving along.  With that said, I did enjoy it. It was gut wrenching while I watched it, but didn’t hold up after revisiting the story details.

Is it worth seeing? Yeah, I think so, but it’s not one that will immediately come to mind if asked to name one of the actors’ best films or asked to recommend some good suspense films. Crowe covers up the film’s flaws while carrying the film for the most part. It might not have been quite as interesting without him.

3.5 of 5


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