In the past 4 years, we’ve been introduced to such films as Gran Torino, Taken,Edge of Darkness and Harry Brown. All of these focus around a similar theme: Old men fighting for what they’ve lost. For Clint Eastwood, it was his precious gran torino. For Liam Neeson and Mel Gibson, their daughters. And for Michael Caine, his best friend. In Paul Haggis’ new thriller, The Next Three Days, Russell Crowe finds himself fighting for not only his wife, but his life back.
John Brennan (Russell Crowe) has it all: An adorable son, teaching Literature at a local college and an incredibly successful wife, Laura (Elizabeth Banks). Once Laura is fired from her job, things begin to spin out of control. Once John and Laura plan out how to move on from her recent job loss, Laura is arrested for the murder of her former boss. Not knowing whether or not his wife is guilty of said-crime, John is left to care for their son by himself. Three years pass by and not much has changed: John is still teaching, Laura is still incarcerated and mystery still surrounds the murder case. The things that have changed are the decreasing funds coming in from Johns’ teaching position. Once Laura attempts suicide, John comes to an ultimatum. Something has to change. He has to break Laura out of prison.
With the (very minor) help of a previous escape convict, Damon (Liam Neeson), John prepares a 3 month plan to break his wife out of jail. Befriending con artists, making bump-keys and buying a hand gun are just a few things he must go through to ready himself for what is to come. And more importantly, for what John has to become. As time rolls on, we start asking the question, “Is John the person who can stage a prison break?”.
There’s another reason why I chose to mention those four films in this review of The Next Three Days. All four films (with a minor exception of Gran Torino) weren’t expected to be as successful as they were and they all starred fantastic actors in career-turning roles. Disagree or not, Mel Gibson hasn’t been given as much praise as he got from Edge of Darkness since What Women Want (has no place in this article full of manly titles). Honestly, Russell Crowe and The Next Three Days is no exception to this rule. Yes, we’ve seen Crowe in huge blockbusters like Gladiator and American Gangster, but this is the first role of his where I truly was moved by his performance. Director and screenwriter Paul Haggis is also to thanks for this role as it’s the progress and evolution of a loving husband and father to a ruthless killer who will lose everything to get his past back that helps Crowe steal the crowds’ attention. Haggis is famous for writing the script for both of the most recent Bond films, so he is no stranger to well-written suspense. At a runtime of 2 hours and 2 minutes, the story finds itself grinding at times but is almost immediately picked up by the intense decisions John must make.
Elizabeth Banks has had very few roles where I took her acting seriously (Although Zack And Miri…well yeah, nevermind). That in mind, I was quite surprised to see her in this picture. All that aside, she brings a pretty sympathetic portrayal of a wronged woman to the screen with a lot of power. The Next Three Days will definitely be the film to launch her career out of raunchy comedies. Along with Crowe and Banks, a few other actors bring some memorable performances to this drama-thriller. Liam Neeson stops by for as long as he was in the movie trailers as Damon. While he’s a minor role, Neeson brings his usual flair and intensity to his character. As Johns’ father, Brian Dennehy brings a subtle but incredibly effective emotion of how supportive a family can be. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Dennehy in front of the camera, so I’m just glad someone came to their senses.
Explosive action, nail-biting suspense and incredible performances help The Next Three Days become an unexpected victory. Don’t let bland trailers fool you, this isn’t one to miss. Not by a long shot.