FlixChatter Review: The Next Three Days

I got a free screening tickets to see this Tuesday night. Though I wasn’t totally sold on the trailer, I figure ‘hey, it’s free and it’s got Russell Crowe in it, how bad can it be?’ Well, turns out it’s not bad at all, in fact, it’s a pretty solid movie that’s intelligent and well-crafted. Directed by writer/director Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Casino Royale), The Next Three Days is a remake of the French film Anything for Her (Pour Elle).

Crowe plays John Brennan, an ordinary family man whose life takes an unexpected turn when his wife Laura is sent to prison for murder she claimed she didn’t commit. The trailer makes it look like it’s about some ferocious vengeance thriller, but it really doesn’t do this movie justice as it’s much smarter than that. I’d say it’s more of a crime drama as it focuses on the years John struggles to raise his young son without his wife by his side, and how he’s plagued by his strong belief that his wife is innocent, which leads to the drastic measures he takes in the name of love.

Now, if you’re expecting a fast-paced type of action movie in the vein of Bourne or Bond movies, this might not be a movie for you. This is what I’d say a thinking man’s thriller that takes its time for the audience to get into the head of the character. Yes, it might feel tedious at times, and people with short attention span probably wish there were more action. But as my hubby pointed out after the movie, the unhurried, quiet scenes help you identify with what John is feeling… his desperation the longer his wife stays in prison that his daily routine life becomes increasingly unbearable. The pace makes it believable for John to devise an elaborate escape plan, I mean, he doesn’t suddenly become an action hero a la Die Hard‘s John McClane where everything he sets out to do works out as planned.

The last half hour packs on the thrill, and by this time we are ready to see the payoff of all of John’s meticulous efforts. We’ve become so invested in this Brennan family that regardless whether Laura is guilty or not, we sympathize with them (especially John) so much that we want them to survive. The getaway though downtown Pittsburgh and the subway/airport chase are exciting and keep you on the edge of your seat, but never gratuitous or overdone.

Now, the performances. Elizabeth Banks turns in a pretty convincing dramatic performance as Laura, though she hardly looks dowdy enough for having been in prison for a few years. Liam Neeson makes a brief but memorable cameo as a prison-related book author that John consults with. He warns John what he must become in order to pull off such a massive undertaking, somehow his dialog reminds me a bit of his Batman Begins role as Henri Ducard as he advises Bruce Wayne to become the legendary caped crusader. Olivia Wilde (massively popular with the fan-boys due to all those TRON Legacy promos) also has a small supporting role, though she doesn’t seem that crucial to the story.

The best part about this movie is without a doubt, Crowe’s performance. He’s equally believable alternating between a gentle, dotting dad and an unrelenting man-on-a-mission. Some people say this isn’t a ‘typical Russell Crowe movie.’ I’m not sure what that exactly means… I never thought of the Aussie thespian being pigeonholed into a single type of movie. Sure he’s famous for playing a bad-ass tough guy, but he’s done plenty of ‘every man’ roles as well. If he’s suddenly starring in a musical where he sings every single line and starts dancing like Fred Astaire, then fine, you could say it isn’t something you normally see him in (though I won’t rule out he WON’T be doing a role like that). In any case, I dare say this is one of his best roles even in such a staggering resume and further solidifies why he’s one the greatest actors working today.

Anyone interested in seeing this? If you’re on the fence whether to see it or not, I’d say give it a shot and don’t judge this movie by its trailer.