Written and directed by Paul Haggis (Crash, Valley of Elah) it is a film that has split my opinions on whether it’s brilliant entertainment, an absurd mess or a crazy love child of the two.
John Brennan (Crowe) is a mild mannered school teacher whose wife, Lara (Elizabeth Banks), is suddenly arrested and imprisoned for a killing her boss; with a clear motive, an eye witness placing her at the scene and the victim’s blood on her coat the evidence is stacked against her. John knows his wife could not have killed and so attempts to prove Lara’s innocence only to be halted by the compelling evidence and the legal system and so he resorts to a concocting a plan to break her out of prison.
The film then heads into how John plans the heist for his wife whilst trying to keep his family together as their son starts to distance himself from his mother. John begins learning criminal skills through the internet and getting guidance from Damon Pennington (a very brief cameo by Liam Neeson), renowned for his ability for carrying out prison breaks, who warns him that the hard part isn’t the escape but the after effects of when the hunt is on.
This is the film’s most interesting part as you watch this regular guy, with hints of Gladiator, enter the criminal underworld to get false ID, weapons and money and then develop a plan that is rushed into action with the news Lara is due to be moved in three days to the local penitentiary giving him one chance to get her before she’s transferred from county jail.
My main issues with the film, apart from the implausible plot, is that the opening doesn’t give enough time to add a solid enough foundation to John and Lara’s relationship. Before ten minutes have passed, Lara is arrested and carted off to jail for murder, which is fine as it adds an immediate impact to the films plot, but we’ve only witnessed a little romance between the couple which didn’t give enough character development for me to care for Lara or her predicament, it is just a part of the plot at that point. Lara is then only seen in jail being depressed and with the aid of deceiving flashbacks of the murdering incident, you’re given the impression she may well have been guilty so your sympathy towards her plight is further removed.
When the Wife Heist finally takes place I couldn’t help thinking that the FBI hunt should have come a lot sooner in the film and lasted for longer; the whole movie is a build of planning and tension that explodes in the final half hour which all feels rushed, unsatisfying and it contains the film’s most ridiculous moments compared to the taught atmosphere created before it. It is an action packed part of the film and well crafted but I can’t help thinking that it’s lacking something to make it on par with the rest of the film.
So what do you end up with? The Next Three Days is a competent thriller but it is let down by some bad creative decisions, implausible moments and some horribly underused throw away characters. However, I found myself highly entertained by it all and at times riveted by the events that took place as John ventures deeper into his plan and there is no doubt many other viewers will thoroughly enjoy It too. Russell Crowe is good, very watchable and carries the film nicely along but Elizabeth Banks felt wasted.
The Next Three Days is out today, the first big film of 2011 and it’s definitely worth having watch. Check out the trailer here.