Director/screenwriter Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) has been raked over the coals by some for some of his films. He has a style that is not exactly subtle and that seems to irk some. I, for one, have no problem with his films and while I don't think they are all great most are worth a watch.
The Next Three Days sees Haggis team up with Russell Crowe (Gladiator, L.A. Confidential) to make a film that is just for entertainment and is not going to make you think a hell of a lot. You actually have to turn your brain off or suspend belief in order to enjoy the film. In the end it is just a thriller about how Crowe's character attempts to break his wife out of prison.
Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks – The Uninvited, Role Models) has had a crappy day. She got into a big fight with her boss at work and then at dinner with her husband John (Russell Crowe),his brother (Michael Buie – Mystery, Alaska) and wife, Erit (Moran Atias – Land of the Lost), Lara then gets into a fight with her sister-in-law. It is a day she just wants to end, but little does she know that things are only going to get worse.
Early in the morning the next day the police burst into the Brennan household and arrest Lara for the murder of her boss. Despite her claims of innocence Lara is found guilty of the murder and sent to prison. John battles long and obsessively for the next three years, while trying to raise their young son Luke (Toby and Tyler Green) alone, but runs up against a wall. It seems like he is going to have to accept the fact that his wife is going to be in prison until she is an old woman.
But John's belief in his wife's innocence is so strong that he continues battling though it looks like he has run out of options. His strategy changes when he comes across a book written by Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson – Schindler's List, Batman Begins), a man who successfully broke out of several prisons. Using the information that Pennington has given him, John starts making a plan to break Lara out of jail.
This is a remake of a 2008 French crime thriller that was supposedly quite good (I did not see it). Paris becomes Pittsburgh, but the story remains basically the same. Haggis gives us a cat-and-mouse ride through John's attempt to break Lara out of jail. You can't really get too far ahead of yourself trying to figure out what is going to happen next as the story is not that transparent, so it is best to just go along for the ride. It is also interesting that Haggis does not make John a knight in shining armour nor is it clear that Lara is innocent. John breaks the law continuously in his quest to free his wife, who might have killed someone. Allowing the audience to question whether we agree with his methods and really even like Lara is quite an interesting tactic.
At certain points the deliberate slowness of the picture almost got to me then thankfully it would pick up again. There were also some idiotic I think I will watch Youtube in order to learn how to break into a car and make bump keys moments though they did not become too overwhelming. Yes, some moments are unbelievable, but it is mostly smarts and luck that end up being with John. Which is really what happens in most real life situations.
Though she is stretching a bit with this character, Elizabeth Banks does a good job in the tricky role of the woman, who we are supposed to feel sorry for despite the fact that we are not sure she is innocent. Also, she bravely takes on this totally unglamourous role that has her being the blonde bombshell for a mere two scenes then a mousy, no makeup, roots-showing character in prison garb the rest of the time.