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Movie Review: The Next Three Days

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Movie: The Next Three Days
Starring: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson
Written & Directed By: Paul Haggis

The Next Three Days isn't your typical prison break action movie.  It wisely knows that we have seen those too many times  to be interested.  Instead it focuses more on the level of planning, commitment and mindset needed to pull off such a crime. Russell Crowe stars as John Brennan a community college English professor whose world is turned upside down after a night out with his wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks). In the middle of a seemingly normal breakfast the police rush in and charge his wife with the murder of her boss. The family is in shock but all the evidence points to her, she was the person last seen with the victim, her fingerprints were on the weapon and blood was found on her jacket. Lara is convicted of the murder. After three years of legal battles John finds he has run out of options. It is at this point that he becomes ever more determined to take control of his life by breaking her out of prison and escaping the country.

Unlike other prison break movies this movie doesn't focus so much on the action. Russell Crowe and writer/director Paul Haggis do a good job at making John believable as an average guy and not an action hero.
He knows nothing of how a prison works or of the criminal underground. He has never even fired a weapon before. However, he is smart and does his research and plans meticulously. He reads every book he can get his hands on about prisons and how they are set up. He tests different parts of his plan and times them on a stop watch. He meets with an expert (Liam Neeson) who explains the difficulties involved in carrying out a plan of this magnitude. It's a small part but crucial to the film. There are some really suspenseful scenes depicting what it's like to almost get caught in a criminal act. For example at one point John tries to use what is called a bump key on a visit to his wife's prison. A key that has been filed down so that it hits all the possible points unlocking any door. At least that is how it is supposed to work. It's a great way to show the terror of getting caught in the act of a crime. There are many scenes like that such as when he attempts to obtain some illegal passports knowing nothing about how one would go about finding someone who sells them.

Once the actual prison break scheme gets going there are some cliches and things that have been done in many other movies. If  you seen movies like The Fugitive then you have a good idea of what to expect.  It is nice to see how everything that was shown earlier in film fits into the plan later and how it all works. It does keep you on engaged and interested without too many unbelievable moments. The relationship between John and Lara works okay but is secondary to actual act of the jailbreak. She spends most the movie behind bars so it is really Russell Crowe who carries the film.

The part of this that could have really used some work is the mystery surrounding the murder itself. Too little time is devoted to it to make it anything more than superficial. It is told through flashbacks of what could have happened and then  near the end of the film a tiny detail reveals what really happened. It feels like more of an excuse to get too the action than a genuine mystery and that was disappointing. Despite that The Next Three Days has enough originality, suspense and a strong performances to more than make up for that small defect. If you're in the mood for a suspense/thriller then give this movie a chance. You can buy The Next Three Days on DVD or Blu-ray from our online store.

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