Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 20 November 2010
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
The Next Three Days
Known as the new Russell Crowe film to a lot of people, this subtle to overt thriller stealthily builds up from failure and despair to boldness and gutsy resolve. Covering the unnerving topic of guilt by circumstantial evidence, it pokes at the audience with a gnawing worry. “Could this possibly happen to me?”
It is, of course, made more ambivalent by the notion of love and loyalty. Does it cloud judgment? Justify breaking the law? That’s the predicament John Brennan (Russell Crowe) finds himself in after his wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) is hauled off by police one sunny morning for the murder of her female boss. Her young son (Toby/Tyler Green) witnesses the unfortunate event
The next three years have John, a college professor, appealing Lara’s conviction, fathering Luke by himself, teaching literature at a community college, and yearning for his wife’s freedom. Prison visits with their son show an unresponsive boy, as if he’s forgotten (or worse, written off) his mother.
Convinced of her innocence, John tries all legal means of freeing her, every single effort unsuccessful. Her subsequent suicide attempt convinces John that he himself must break her out of prison. After all she’s innocent, right? She could never commit such a brutal crime, right? Only the audience is left to wonder; John’s faith never waivers.
After consulting with a successful escape artist, former prisoner turned author Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson) John begins to plot an elaborate sequence of events that will take him through his wife’s assisted escape and subsequent underground life.
Immersed in the criminal element and mindset, John’s determination and devotion cause him to risk everything. In the process he makes a series of wrong moves that almost gets him thrown into prison, that is, when he’s not being robbed and beaten by street thugs with connections to illicit drugs (and fake I.D.s). To make matters worse, Lara is an insulin-dependent diabetic, which makes her even more closely monitored than the rest of the population.
John must incorporate all of these facts into detailed plans for freeing his wife. The most compelling part of the film is discovering his careful contingencies, one tiny increment at a time. His sequential, precisely timed movements keep the viewer guessing throughout the suspense of a taut cat and mouse pursuit.
A side plot featuring a possible relationship for John with single mom Nicole (Olivia Wilde) is totally wasted, good for nothing more than a convenient place to stash Luke for a while as Lara and John evade the entire mobilized police force of the state. Even John’s own parents (father George played by Brian Dennehy) are kept ignorant of his plans although George finds a clue quite late in the game. Nothing is the way you expect it to be, and that is always welcome.
Russell Crowe has a versatility that makes him believable whether he’s a quiet English professor or a fugitive wanted by the police. He’s got that kind of face and that kind of bewildered Everyman gravitas.
Elizabeth Banks almost plays two roles here. One is the sophisticated blond businesswoman and the other is the mousy, unglamorous inmate, full of despair. She is compelling in both scenarios.
Liam Neeson’s brief scene shows that the man can interchange smooth and rough portrayals as easily as changing a shirt. Here he’s rough and unappealing – which is exactly his appeal as an actor. A tired-looking Brian Dennehy brings integrity to his small role letting us see that he’s aged and is the wiser for it. Olivia Wilde is wasted as an attractive babysitter.
Cameo appearances include Trudie Styler (Sting’s wife) as Lara’s doctor and Daniel Stern as the attorney handling her appeal.
Oscar-winning writer/director Paul Haggis (Crash) took on the task of remaking the French Film “Pour Elle” (For Her) and fills it with both quiet introspective moments and loud, dangerous ones. He allows the viewer to discover his protagonist’s plans instead of spoon feeding it to them.
Yes there are plot holes and what if’s, and sometimes the film is a bit slow moving. Still, it maintains an interest in and empathy for the characters; it’s a table turner with clever surprises, close calls and satisfying authority thwarts.
The Next Three Days only takes 133 minutes. If only justice were that swift.