The Next Three Days (2010)

Posted: February 22, 2011 in Movies

A remake of the French thriller Pour Elle, The Next Three Days seems to be trying to follow in the footsteps of another French action flick- Taken. If it’s not Liam Neeson’s single-scene cameo, it’s the general idea of a man who takes on a threat to his family by whatever means necessary. And while Taken was a pretty blatant fantasy for any father of a little girl who’s growing up and growing away from him, it had the good sense to be short, action-packed, and so resolutely black-and-white that you never once questioned rooting for the hero as he blazed a path of destruction and wife-wounding across France. Director Paul Haggis’ thriller wants to have its cake and eat it too though, by delivering a heist-style prison-escape filled with clever gags, chock full of pathos, and all centered around an even more every everyman. Unfortunately, the result is a bloated, over-long mess, the pace of which slips gears between exciting and dull like a broken transmission.

In Haggis’ film, John (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Elizabeth Banks) are living a quiet suburban life, raising their small child, sexing, and having playfully argumentative dinners with friends. You get the sense of marital Nirvana until quite suddenly the police barge in, drag Lara away with accusations of murder, and then instantly we’re several years in the future after Lara’s appeals have run dry. We get the picture of a tiring string of court battles and familial separation that have distanced little Luke from his mother, even if John is still utterly convinced of his wife’s innocence and has no intentions of quitting the fight. It becomes all too clear though, that lawyers and courtrooms no longer hold any answer for him, so John starts contemplating the possibility of breaking Lara out of prison.

Implausible though it is, this would be a perfectly acceptable set-up for a solid thriller if Haggis wasn’t dedicated to muddying the plot and drive of the film at every turn. The first mistake is that Lara’s innocence is presented to us as fact only through John’s faith, and in fact, the circumstances we’re given make it seem much more likely that she did it. The majority of what we see of Lara before she’s in the slammer is of her in an argument with a friend, which is not nearly enough to consider a character capable of murder, but it doesn’t color the situation in her favor. It’s exciting how immediately the story jumps to post-arrest, but it sets our relationship with Lara off on such a wrong foot that it never really recovers. Considering the lengths John will go to in the film to get her out, our less-than-crystal-clear understanding of her and her innocence is a serious strike against the film.

John starts off as a harmless, slightly submissive college professor- the idea is that he’s going to go from zero to conspiratorial escape-mission genius and thus be more relatable to all of us who aren’t already CIA operatives. Much of the film is dedicated to John googling, youtubing, and camera-phoning his way to expertise in all manner of handy tricks like breaking into cars and forging master keys (you could try this at home!). His research is so thorough that he even tracks down a celebrated prison escapist played by Liam Neeson in a a very brief appearance. Most of these things are pretty much useless. The scenes with John’s parents only serve to make it more clear how silly this idea is of breaking his murder-convicted wife out of prison, fleeing the country, and uprooting their already-damaged son. I suppose this is meant to make John seem even more dedicated to preserving his family, but his plan really is quite stupid, even from that perspective.

Even though John borders on completely incompetent when dealing with the underworld to get fake passports and such (which is framed as him being driven and uncompromising naturally), eventually it turns out he has it all figured perfectly and his plan strikes out with plenty of clever twists and turns to throw off the cops. This brings us to the part of the film that you’ve been waiting an hour-and-a-half for- the actual escape and chase. The scenes are exciting and often well shot, but it keeps. finding. ways. to. pause. the. action. Eventually this escape becomes so convoluted and implausible that the ticking clocks that were so dramatically set-up are outright ignored.

I do want to give Russell Crowe credit for turning in a fun performance that does a credible job of bridging the gaps in the script. Olivia Wilde is very pretty, and given pretty much nothing to do. Elizabeth Banks looks like she was on her way to giving a fine performance if the script had ever really figured out her character.

Just imagine a fun, clear Ocean’s 11 or Heat-style escape film, with a little bit of that Taken family righteousness, and then cram it to capacity with moral doubt, distractions, and cleverness applied to completely inconsequential scenes, and you’ll get the right idea of what The Next Three Days is like. If you squint your eyes and don’t wear a watch you might like what is ultimately a competently-filmed thriller, but the film is sandbagged by its own need to bring down to earth a scenario that simply doesn’t function when forced into the pressure-levels of the real world.

The Next Three Days will be released on BluRay and DVD March 8, 2011.

IMBD: Link | Download (AVI): Link

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s