The Next Three Days
DVD | Blu-Ray
Written and Directed by Paul Haggis
Starring Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Brian Dennehy, Lennie James, Olivia Wilde, Ty Simpkins, Helen Carey
Originally Released: November 9, 2010
Though slow to begin with, Paul Haggis’ The Next Three Days is a suspenseful prison-break story that accelerates its pace as the movie progresses, delivering climactic scenes that will quite literally keep you on the edge of your seat. Companioned with excellent performances from the main cast, as well as a few attention-grabbing supporting and cameo roles, the film is a surprising and breathtaking adventure.
The first portions of The Next Three Days are remarkably mundane and come across as sometimes awful and poorly made – but after watching the entire movie, and taking those opening acts into context with the whole shebang, it’s clear that this was an important and deliberate part by Haggis. If one were to review only the first-third of this movie, it would do extremely poorly – but when taken as a whole story piece, this very slow pace and yawn-like quality impacts the rest of the movie significantly.
The Next Three Days is absolutely about pace and speed and time. From the slowness of the opening, to the breakneck velocity of the climactic pursuits near the conclusion of the film, the movie would resemble an exponential graph if charted. Every part of that occurs in The Next Three Days and is seen on-screen is there for a reason, and fits in with the overall telling of the story – a sure sign of solid writing.
Established in Pittsburgh, the film focuses on married couple John Brennan (Russell Crowe) and Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks), and their son Luke (Ty Simpkins). A tragedy occurs where Lara is accused of murdering her manager, and despite her testimony, the evidence weighs heavily against her and she is convicted and imprisoned.
John persists with the legal route, examining appeals options that keep getting rejected. Frustrated, his focus on the legal system becomes an obsession with the idea of a prison break. As a college instructor, his first instinct is to turn to research, which ultimately leads him to former escapee Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson), who provides some key information to John in developing his strategy.
As of this point, the movie begins to focus on John’s obsession with the prison break. There are some amusing internet references to popular viral YouTube videos, such as how to make a bump key, and how to break into a vehicle using a tennis ball. Thankfully the filmmakers don’t allow the plot to show all advice on the intertubes as being accurate, with John totally fumble-fucking one of his attempts at emulating what he learned from the world wide web.
Nevertheless the best of these sequences are the little tidbits and morsels of information that pay off later during the film’s climax. Lighting and camerawork play a highly chief role during these moments and everything from John encountering the mother of his son’s friend, Nicole (Olivia Wilde), to the seedy individuals and neighborhoods he comes across in his quest for passports, all become important and necessary for the progression of the narrative and the climax of the film. Nothing unnecessary is added to the movie, and everything connects together nicely.
In the beginning, I was a little disappointed in Brian Dennehy‘s role as John’s father – it seemed wasted, as he never delivers an important moment… BUT as the movie progresses, so does Dennehy’s significance, with him conveying perhaps a couple of the most significant instances in The Next Three Days with only a few lines. It is completely a show-stealing moment, and the director very wisely saved Dennehy to bring this important moment to the screen.
As for the other roles, Crowe is remarkable. Like the plot pace and Dennehy’s role, Crowe begins very slowly and is quite utterly pathetic and mundane; initially bringing what seems to be a disappointing moment. But that exponential pace kicks in, and as it does, then so does Russell’s performing and character development. Ordinarily, being Australian myself, I’m quite biased towards my fellow Aussies in the acting field, but I’m sure viewers will also find Crowe’s overall craft in this film to be solid, plausible, and up-to-par with his usual standards.
Elizabeth Banks is also proficient – even making the audience question several times whether she is the murderer or not, which is a substantial element of the overall progression. Ty Simpkins also delivers nicely for a young chap, convincing me utterly this kid has a good future in acting after also seeing his stellar performance in horror movie Insidious as well.
Similarly worth mentioning is Lennie James‘ underplayed job (meaning: wish we could have seen more of him) as Lieutenant Nabulsi. He comes very late into the plot, but his character symbolizes the turn of events, and the signal that the exponential graph of time/pace cited earlier is approaching its peak very quickly. It was also fun seeing Liam Neeson in this film, but I was highly disappointed that his role was limited to that of a cameo, and would have liked to have seen a little more of him.
The music in The Next Three Days is quite good as well, particularly the accompanying song selections for specific scenes. Moby‘s work is extensive here, and his music adds nicely to the ambience of particular moments.
I imagine a majority of folks will find The Next Three Days to be highly enjoyable – providing they stick with it through the very slow beginning. While this slow/mundane aspect of plot and characters at the beginning IS there for a reason and DOES pay off, it could also serve to be irritating and frustrating to many audience viewers; particularly those who were expecting a solid fast action flick from start to finish. This is not one of those films, and The Next Three Days does require a little patience and scrutiny to begin with – but believe me, it does pay off, and it is worth it.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5