THE NEXT THREE DAYS (Paul Haggis, 2010)
In THE NEXT THREE DAYS John and Lara Brennan’s happy marriage is shattered when Pittsburgh police turn up at their front door one morning to arrest her for murder. Lara (Elizabeth Banks) is convicted to a life sentence, but John (Russell Crowe) holds out hope that the appeals process will ultimately free his wife. Eventually he realizes that the legal system will not overturn her conviction, so he plots to break her out of prison and escape out of the country with her and their son.
John’s singular focus and dogged mission planning propels THE NEXT THREE DAYS for a considerable amount of the running time. He’s a man obsessed with doing whatever he can in the hope of reuniting his family. The film hums from his intensity and the detail-oriented approach, even if it passes along as truth the MYTHBUSTERS-busted technique of using a tennis ball to unlock a locked vehicle.
Crowe delivers a lived-in, no-nonsense performance that has come to define his body of work. Although in comparatively few scenes, Banks is good at conveying her character’s weariness through this ordeal.
THE NEXT THREE DAYS co-writer and director Paul Haggis succeeds at exploring the psychological burdens of this situation while leaving some of the more interesting questions untouched. The audience may take it on good faith that Lara is innocent and wrongly imprisoned, but the film is less clear about that for an astonishingly long time yet doesn’t factor it into the equation. John is warned that he should be prepared to leave his son behind, but that doesn’t feel like a choice the film is ever committed to make.
The bulk of THE NEXT THREE DAYS consists of the build-up to the escape plan, which is probably just as well since this is a thriller surprisingly light on thrills. THE NEXT THREE DAYS mostly works as a dramatic study, but for a movie with a daring prison break, it needs more sizzle in the action.