If your significant other was falsely convicted of murder, how far would you go? After all legal resources dry up, what would you do? Would you let her waste away in prison, or would you risk everything - your kid, your family, your freedom - to set her free? In The Next Three Days, writer/director Paul Haggis (Crash) explores these questions and delivers a surprisingly effective thriller.
"Surprisingly" is an appropriate word to use, given the awful marketing campaign Lionsgate employed to drive audiences to theaters. The movie is a box office bust, largely thanks to opening against Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I and, more importantly, trailers that presented the film as an absurd, uninteresting throwaway.
The Next Three Days is no such thing.
Though not flawless by any means, The Next Three Days is a relatively believable and exciting movie. In the film, Russell Crowe stars as a husband and father who can't accept that his wife (Elizabeth Banks) has been wrongfully convicted of murder and will spend the next 20 years in prison. Out of desperation, he begins to plot her escape, putting not only her but his entire family in jeopardy.
The Next Three Days is a slow-boil thriller. Haggis takes his time developing the characters, establishing Crowe and Banks as a happy couple soon to be torn apart by the legal system. With their options running out, Crowe makes the unilateral decision to break his wife out of his prison, despite having no experience in the matter. He slowly develops a plan and assembles the pieces to execute it, even though failure would mean their kid would grow up without a father.
At just over two hours long, The Next Three Days isn't the tightest paced film. While never boring, it does feel a little long at times; shaving away ten minutes would have resulted in a more finely tuned picture. Still, the movie is consistently engaging, thanks largely to yet another strong performance by Russell Crowe. He delivers a more nuanced and yet emotionally charged performance than seen in a while; the picture rests largely on his shoulders. He won't win any awards, but he carries the movie well.
Even though the movie could have been tighter, Haggis rewards the audience for its patience with a suspenseful and largely believable third act. The escape sequence and subsequent events are exciting, albeit slightly predictable. Furthermore, even when in thriller mode The Next Three Days carries an unexpected somberness; after all, no matter what happens there are losers. If they escape, they may never see their family and friends again; if they don't, their family will be torn apart.
The Next Three Days isn't perfect. It's too long and doesn't have a lot of repeat value; this isn't a thriller you're likely to watch a second time. Still, the movie is an effectively suspenseful movie that features strong acting and several tense moments. Recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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