How far would you go to be with the person you love? This is the question posed in Paul Haggis’ latest thriller, The Next Three Days. Known primarily for his Oscar Winning drama Crash about racism in America, Haggis has crafted a thoughtful and emotionally charged picture, even if it does take itself a little too seriously more often than it should.
John (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Elizabeth Banks) Brennan along with their son Luke are a typical American family; they live on a small leafy suburb and go out for dinner at the weekend with friends. But their lives are changed forever when during breakfast a barrage of police blast through the front door, looking for Lara. She is arrested for murder, and John is left dumbfounded at the bizarre accusation. The crime took place mere hours before the couple went out for a meal: surely he would have noticed her acting strangely if she had just killed some body. But with her fingerprints on the murder weapon and blood on her coat, the evidence stacks up against her.
Insisting she is innocent when everyone else have resigned to the fact that the person they thought they knew was actually a murderer, John scours the internet for answers. He comes across a book, written by Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson), an ex convict who has escaped prison many times. They arrange to meet, and John devises a plan to break his wife out of her incarcerated state with the information and tips Pennington provides. But can he change absolutely everything about his being, going to depths of morality and follow through with the plan, becoming a fugitive for the rest of his life?
It’s a little difficult to categorize The Next Three Days, but at its core it’s a romance, and exhibits the lengths that people will go to be with the people they love. Crowe is absolutely mesmerising, which is surprising as I’m not usually a fan of his work. In the first 20 minutes, his emotions made me really feel for his character. The same could not be said about Elizabeth Banks, and her dire performance as Lara. Or maybe she was good, but was outshone by Crowe. I doubt that though, as even in scenes where he isn’t present, she puts absolutely no conviction into a role that really does require it. The narrative rides on Johns feelings for this woman, but she shows no appreciation, ultimately making us wonder why he’s doing it in the first place.
He does seem a little crazed though. Even the thought of breaking someone out of prison is ludicrous, but the sheer determination he shows to accomplish the task is admirable. However, on more than one occasion it did seem like it was going off on a tangent, with John robbing drug dealers in lengthy scenes and an unnecessary sub plot involving the mother of one of Luke’s friends. At times, it threatens to wobble from its tracks, but is given a nudge back when John returns to prison to visit his wife, as if to remind us what he’s doing and why he’s doing it.
Neeson’s role is more of a cameo, but as usual he is brilliant. I wholly believed that his character had escaped from prisons, which was vital in believing the rest of the story. The methods used are all based on the dialogue between John and Pennington, which are possibly the best scenes of the film.
The set pieces happen mainly towards the end, when (disappointingly) it becomes an average chase movie pitting the police against the couple. But even during these scenes, there are many times when events could go in many directions, and it’s refreshing to see a film that is almost impossible to guess what will happen.
The Next Three Days isn’t the adrenaline pumping action movie that the trailer suggests, but more of a slow burning thoughtful romance that explodes into life at the end. A strong performance from Crowe is almost tarnished by a weak Banks, but overall it’s a movie that will stick with you long after you’ve left the cinema.
Let’s say for about.. oooh.. Three days.