johnlink ranks THE NEXT THREE DAYS (2010)

I had no idea that this was written and directed by Paul Haggis, who did both jobs for the Oscar darling CRASH and the less-known (but equally good) IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH. Being a suspense film in which Russell Crowe’s everyman is trying to break his potentially innocent wife (Elizabeth Banks) out of jail, this could have been a very minor film. But the people making this movie didn’t want to make a minor film. SOME SPOILERS BELOW

I watched THE NEXT THREE DAYS (2010) on 4.7.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

Managing a movie theater for the past half a decade, I have a pretty good feel for the public’s perceptions of individual movies. This film came and went in the standard way. It spent a week in a big house where it did not perform particularly well, or particularly poorly. It methodically pushed it’s way down to the smaller auditorium theaters before quietly going away. I heard some people say this was good, and heard a few few ‘better than expected’ comments. But no one went to bat for this movie, or felt like they had seen anything particularly great.

While I’m not sure I’m ready to call this an all-time-great, I’d certainly like to take some time going to bat for THE NEXT THREE DAYS. As I mentioned before the jump, this is an ambitious film which takes a standard plot and wants to do the best it possibly can. Russell Crowe is trying to balance the needs of his continually depressed young son with those of his wife who (he assumes) is wrongly accused of murder. When the appeal process fizzles out (in a surprisingly great one scene cameo by Daniel Stern), Crowe decides it is time to get her out of prison by any means necessary.

In another awesome one-scene cameo, Liam Neeson explains to Crowe what he needs to do to be ready to get her out. Not in a specific sense, but in a preparatory sense and with a look to what you are going to do once you get out. Crowe records this conversation, and is ready to get started on the plan. Too simple? Absolutely. But the research montage, as well as the scope of this film in general, instills confidence that the necessary research was, and continues to be, done.

So Crowe is going around trying to get passports. His plan is to buy some drugs, then ask if they know where to get good passports. This plan does not go as expected, and the end results heighten the danger while adding to the feel of the realism. Crowe has played some of the all time bad asses, not the least of which being Maximus in GLADIATOR, but he comes across as just being a guy who is in way over his head (at least physically).

The script never forgets what this is all about. Crowe regularly checks in with his wife, who becomes more depressed and hopeless as the film progresses. He tries to reach his son, who is just starting school and is being teased by the other kids about his murderous mother. He meets a woman, but keeps himself distant. He manages to hold onto his job, but his relationship with his parents deteriorates. All of this builds the importance of the breakout’s success, while also continually driving the love Crowe has for his wife and son.

This film is not without its problems. Banks does an awesome job as the wife, but the writing of the character hits a few snags. Haggis wants her to be full of life, fully rounded. He does a great job with that in the beginning. We see her beocme more erratic the more time she spends in jail, and that is understandable. But the movie wants to push the did-she-or-didn’t-she aspect of her crime, and so chooses not to follow her into the cell. All we see of her is what Crowe sees of her. That would be fine, if not for a moment towards the end where she does something crazy, something which doesn’t feel attached to her as a character.

Also, there are a few post-climactic moments, especially a scene in a parking lot between two detectives, which feels one hundred percent like a scene tacked on to make sure the audience feels alright about everything that just happened. Not to repeat myself, but it felt detached from the carefully plotted movie we just saw.

But I have very little to complain about. There is a moment, with about an hour left in the movie, when Crowe approaches some drug dealers at their home. From that moment forward, this movie puts you on the edge of your seat and does not let up. Most films have the detectives chasing the heroes, but the end result feels pre-determined. Haggis, both in the writing and directing, doesn’t make any of this feel safe for anybody. That’s a tall task, yet it is succesfully achieved while also giving a half-dozen ‘a-ha’ moments in the third act.

I really liked this movie before the last hour, and loved it once it was done. This is the best I’ve felt about a new suspense film in a long time.

SCORES

FILM: 7; MOVIE: 10; ACTING: 7; WRITING: 6; BONUS: 1

I have only given a bonus point to casting a couple of times. But this one deserves it. The cameo by Liam Neeson gives that scene added weight. The lawyer played by Daniel Stern may be a novelty, but it is surprisingly intense. Brian Dennehy gives the right amount of gruff to the quiet Dad who has to have one key scene. Crowe and Banks are great together, and Banks makes something solid out of a role which could have been written better. This isn’t some star-studded affair, but the casting hits all the right notes.

7+10+8+6+1=31

FINAL SCORE: 7.75

 

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~ by johnlink00 on April 8, 2012.

One Response to “johnlink ranks THE NEXT THREE DAYS (2010)”

  1. […] I gave only 2 in the FILM category (SHAWSHANK and TREE OF LIFE) but I gave 11 in the MOVIE category. They are (with some flourishes so this looks neater): The magnificent CASABLANCA, the powerful INSIDER,  the joyous AVENGERS, a wonderfully rebooted BATMAN BEGINS, the well spoken RESERVOIR DOGS, the classic RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC, an old favorite CITY SLICKERS, vintage Cruise in A FEW GOOD MEN, a great cat-and-mouse story CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, the best of the series in HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, and an unexpectedly solid suspense film THE NEXT THREE DAYS. […]

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