An argument at the office holds horrifying consequences for Elizabeth Banks in Paul Haggis’s The Next Three Days. After police raid their idyllic family home the Brennans are torn apart and, after a cruel judicial process, have to come to terms with Lara’s jail sentence.
Surrounding the sobering reality of prison life (including suicide attempts and impersonal visiting hours) is Russell Crowe’s growing determination to free his wife. After all legal avenues are explored (and ultimately fail) the only option he is left with is breaking his wife free from prison… and this being Russell Crowe the option is totally viable.
Virtue is a central theme in The Next Three Days especially as its core centres around the supposed innocence of Banks’s Lara. The escape plan assembled by Crowe lightly hops between comedy (we see him planning part of the escape while he sits in his lecture theatre) and the ridiculously helpful youtube whilst Liam Neeson crops up out of nowhere to lend a hand to his endeavours.
His task obviously can’t be allowed to go too smoothly and when news comes that Lara is to be moved to a different jail the plan is jeopardised. Crowe consequently rubs shoulders with the grimy crime underworld and ends up with blood on his own hands. Amidst all of this Crowe also manages to befriend Olivia Wilde in the local park whilst his miserable son plays half-heartedly.
Although The Next Three Days holds a tantalising premise at its heart, it not only never really specifies just when The Next Three Days are the film also takes a long time to get to the point. Its general story is absorbing but the pace sometimes loses to Haggis’s choice to present the viewer with every part of John (Crowe)’s meticulous planning. Thankfully the parts of the film that remember it’s an action movie offer a fantastic thrill ride that offer heart-pounding chase sequences and movingly emotive decisions. Although at first it may feel a bit like a poor man’s Law Abiding Citizen, if you stick with it it does get better but the problems with pace mean it is never allowed to gallop.
An unexpected change of perspective and the heart-thumping adrenaline rush provided in the film’s finale thankfully absolve the film’s sins but it’s drawn-out and meandering journey toward its conclusion means it sometimes feels like it lasts about three days.
So, what do we learn from The Next Three Days? Two things. 1. Russell Crowe should really stick to the action genre. 2. If you happen to be wrongly convicted of your boss’s murder just make sure you have diabetes, a determined husband with access to the internet and have Liam Neeson in the phone book.
Best line: ‘She’s innocent. She didn’t kill that woman.’
Best performance: Elizabeth Banks