Movie Review: The Next Three Days (2010)

December 1, 2010 in Movie Reviews by pacejmiller

When I first saw the preview for The Next Three Days, the new thriller written and directed by Paul Haggis (the phenomenal award-winning screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby, Crash, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima), I thought it was going to be a cross between Prison Break and three seasons of 24 condensed into a 122-minute film (three days = 72 hours, get it?).

Well, it wasn’t exactly like that, but The Next Three Days was still very very good.  Besides, Russell Crowe is no Jack Bauer or Michael Scofield.

Anyway, Crowe plays John Brennan, a community college professor and husband of Lara Brennan, played by Elizabeth Banks.  Without giving away too much, Lara is accused of a heinous crime, and John, the loving husband and father, is faced with a life-changing decision.  Will he risk everything to save her?  Will he even stand a chance?

Needless to say, Crowe is brilliant, as he always is.  He is in just about every scene, and he brings Brennan to life with a versatile performance that traverses a full range of emotions.  Brennan is neither a genius nor a soldier, but his determination and courage make what happens in this film less implausible than it would otherwise seem.  More than half the film follows Brennan around as he contemplates what he must do and how he will go about doing it.  There’s a lot of surveillance, trial and error, and learning from mistakes.  It’s actually quite refreshing to see how a seemingly ordinary man goes about planning an elaborate scheme and the practical obstacles he must overcome to succeed.

Elizabeth Banks is an underrated actress, and she does a good job here, but at a young-looking 36 she seems a little mismatched for the 46 year-old Crowe.  It’s a weird combination because they also have a very young son and are a very affectionate couple — it’s nobody’s fault (maybe except for the casting agent), but something about their relationship that doesn’t feel quite right.  Maybe it’s just me.

The Next Three Days is ultimately a slow-burner about one man’s single-minded determination to save his wife at any cost.  There are lots of ups and downs in the first half as Brennan finds his feet before the action really picks up in the second.  It’s more of an intellectual thriller as opposed to a white-knuckle action blockbuster, but I like it better this way.  I was intrigued the entire way because Haggis made sure there were always unanswered questions, though I think it was probably 20 minutes too long.  And I didn’t think it was necessary in the end to reveal as much as it did so that everything is tied up neatly — some things are better left to the audience’s imagination.  But again, maybe that’s just me.

On the whole, a nice, well-made thriller with solid dramatic elements and top notch performances.  I enjoyed it a lot.

3.75 stars out of 5

PS: Liam Neeson in a very short and rather distracting cameo.