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Next Three Days, The (2010)

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Score: 6/10

Genre: Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Release Date: November 19th, 2010 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Paul Haggis Actors: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Brian Dennehy, Olivia Wilde, Liam Neeson


he Next Three Days” relies heavily on the compelling plot of an everyman forced into devising a complex and highly dangerous jailbreak for his wrongfully convicted wife.  Russell Crowe commands an appropriate charisma and compassion for his schoolteacher-turned-criminal, yet this unique viewpoint also makes the believability far harder to achieve. His actions aren’t always convincing, her responses are rarely logical, and the police who are hunting them are far too efficient. Director Paul Haggis handles the suspense well, supplying plenty of tense cat-and-mouse chases and harrowing encounters with denizens of the underworld and officers of the law alike. Perhaps a job of this nature could have really used someone like Liam Neeson offering his skills rather than just a few words of advice.

College teacher John Brennan (Russell Crowe) leads a fulfilling life with his beloved wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) and their young son Luke. When Lara’s boss is found murdered and she is convicted of the crime, John’s world begins to crumble as his resources and hopes of freeing her rapidly dissolve. After Lara attempts to take her own life, John realizes he must do whatever it takes to bring his family together again – and sets about planning an elaborate and perilous scheme to spring his wife from prison.

“The Next Three Days” makes quite an effort to be the most realistic prison break movie possible, uniquely utilizing an unskilled protagonist with no connections to the police, no previous experience with covert operations, and no access to hi-tech gadgetry. He’s an everyman and must go about freeing his wife with practical, accessible methods, including the ever valuable Google and YouTube. Lengths are taken to ensure he doesn’t have an easy time of it, contrasting with the likes of the “Ocean’s Eleven” crew, “The Losers,” “Takers,” or “The A-Team,” or even the professionally trained one-person-armies of this year’s “Salt” and “Edge of Darkness.” Like Paul Kersey from “Death Wish,” it sensibly takes John several failed attempts to harness his bravery, desperation, and planning.

The plot moves quickly, painting a picture of a happy family, then wrenching sympathy for the wrongfully accused when Lara’s son won’t speak to her, she’s not allowed to touch her husband, and her mother won’t visit her in prison. Following this is a flashback to explain her dire situation, then unsubtle references to Don Quixote, questioning whether or not it is better to exist in a reality of our own making as opposed to the alternative of life in despair. Moving along like a classic heist film, the suspense is skillfully handled, along with mounting tension and enough extra, unpredictable snags at every turn to keep the anticipation suitably white-knuckle.

Inherent with this method of multiple climaxes, one pivotal moment is such a huge misstep that it throws off the flow and tone of the entire movie. It’s out of place, ridiculously absurd, and poorly shot. Sadly, despite the following scenes of intensity, “The Next Three Days” is unable to recover. The setup is excellent, but the conclusion is underwhelming. It also doesn’t help that Russell Crowe’s character is so strong and Elizabeth Banks’ role is so understated. A bit of exaggerated anguish could have made a difference.

– The Massie Twins


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