The Next Three Days
Director: Paul Haggis
Cast: Russell Crown, Elizabeth Banks, Brian Dennehy, Olivia Wilde & Liam Neeson
By Jack Mays
Co-written and directed by Paul Haggis (‘In the Valley of Elah’, ‘Crash’), ‘The Next Three Days’ is a gripping thriller bolstered by a fine performance by the ever-reliable Russell Crowe as a decent man compelled to take the law into his own hands.
Set in the present day, the film tells the familiar story of one man’s attempt to rescue the woman he loves. In this case, though, the damsel in distress (played ably by Elizabeth Banks) is being held captive not in a medieval castle or evil villain’s headquarters but in a high-security prison in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after being sentenced to life for the murder of her boss.
Will he succeed in breaking his wife out prison? If he succeeds, will they be able to outrun the cops and escape before they ring off all routes out of the city? Will he even have the courage to go through with the plan at all? The answer to these questions would be obvious in lesser hands, but it’s to the credit of the scriptwriters that the audience is kept guessing throughout most of the 122 minute runtime.
Great credit, too, must go to Russell Crowe for creating a character deserving of the audience’s sympathies. Sporting a nasty bruise around one eye for a large portion of the film, and looking for all the world like a man who doesn’t check himself in the mirror before leaving the house, Crowe is totally believable as a schoolteacher and loving father convinced of his wife’s innocence. No one has ever disputed the man’s screen presence, but it’s the sensitivity Crowe brings to his roles—including this one—which marks him out as one of Hollywood’s greats.
Key to the film’s success is the fact that Crowe is not playing your typical action hero. To paraphrase one of the film’s best lines, what kind of an action hero drives a Prius? When he buys a gun he even has to ask the storeowner where the bullets go! Make no mistake about it: this guy wouldn’t last two minutes trapped in a skyscraper with John McClane.
Interestingly, neither is our hero infallible. In fact, time and again he’s guilty of the kind of slip-ups that, were he James Bond, would result in the revocation of his licence to kill. As a result, moments that would maybe feel routine in the context of, say, a Bond movie are laced with suspense.
Ultimately, ‘The Next Three Days’ doesn’t quite have the courage of its convictions—the climax is a bit too Hollywood for my taste—and there are a few too many instances in the final act that stretch credibility, but it’s an enjoyably tense experience nonetheless.
The Trailer to The Next Three Days