Film Score: Danny Elfman Cinematography: Stéphane Fontaine
Starring: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson and Olivia Wilde
Salt, where it was all action and no character development, The Next Three Days goes completely the other direction. We learn all about the family, go through Russell Crowe’s frustration and feelings of impotence, and become emboldened along with him when he takes the steps he feels have to be done. It’s not so much a roller coaster ride as it is a pressure cooker, empathizing with Crowe as his former life is squeezed out of existence until, when things finally do break, we rocket to the end: sustained tension followed by a free fall of release.
The film opens at a restaurant one night, Russell Crowe and his wife, Elizabeth Banks, having dinner with some friends. She had a fight with her boss and is a bit on edge, but otherwise seems fine. The next morning, however, the police come into the house and arrest her for the murder of her boss. Crowe takes care of their son, while the trial and appeals go through, but soon it becomes clear that she will not be acquitted. At this point Crowe seeks the advice of Liam Neeson who has broken out of prison numerous times. Then it’s up to the nerve and resolve, in addition to an incredible amount of planning, of Crowe to go through with the plan.
Paul Haggis started his career writing and directing for television, before branching into the big screen. He scored a hit right away with Crash in 2004, which won the Academy Award that year because members were too skittish to vote for Brokeback Mountain. But there was no sophomore slump for Haggis when Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, which he scripted, won the following year. The Next Three Days is a remake of the 2008 French film Pour Elle (Anything for Her) and Haggis does a nice job on the adaptation, not overwriting, but letting the action speak for itself.
Crowe is good playing himself, bringing to the character the kind of intensity needed to sell the plot. Elizabeth Banks doesn’t fare so well, primarily because one of the conceits of the story is that the audience is not supposed to know if she’s guilty or not. There’s also a good supporting cast that includes the vastly underutilized Daniel Stern, a small role for Olivia Wilde coming out of her years on House, and the great Brian Dennehy as Crowe’s father. It’s definitely a different kind of action/adventure film, more a suburban thriller than one with secret agents and spies. And to my mind the film is the better for it. Know what you’re getting into, but if you like suspense films, The Next Three Days is a good one.