The Next Three Days Directed by: Paul Haggis Cast: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde Running Time: 2 hrs 2 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: November 19, 2010
PLOT: John (Crowe) and Laura (Banks) are a married couple whose life is nearly destroyed when Laura is accused of murder. John will do anything to get her out.
WHO'S IT FOR? It's a slow-building thriller. You have to have some patience and also believe that Crowe isn't too much of a star to play an everyman.
EXPECTATIONS: Almost zero. I knew next to nothing about this film. Thriller, Russell Crowe ... that's it. That's the list.
Russell Crowe as John Brennan: This is most definitely a "Russell Crowe film" and here's the amazing thing: he can still play a regular guy. That's not true with other actors. It's very hard to put yourself in the shows of THE Bruce Willis or THE Denzel Washington with their flicks. Crowe can still be a chameleon. John is a teacher, raises his son and most importantly, John loves his wife. When she's accused of murder, he can't believe it, period. So then he does anything and everything in his power to be with her again. Along the way, it's completely like you're in the situation. John learns from the internet, people he meets and observing. He's not a superhero. That's the best part of this film. It always feels plausible, especially with Crowe's passion. Score: 10
Elizabeth Banks as Laura: What a nice surprise. Banks has been known for her funny ("Scrubs," Zack and Miri Make a Porno), but now it seems she is quite capable of dramatic roles as well. Laura starts the film with a passionate fight with her sister-in-law. You realize she's capable of speaking her mind, but is she capable of more? The journey is definitely John's. But with Laura, especially toward the end of the film, you suddenly realize what she must have been going through. Score: 8
Olivia Wilde as Nicole: Damn, Wilde is easy on the eyes. Thankfully, just because she's good looking and is raising a child by herself (just like John) this doesn't lead down the typically road. Score: 7
Rest of Cast: Liam Neeson is in this film for one scene. He's the knowledge. His purpose is to show John the first realization of what he's planning on doing and the stakes that are at hand. It's a good scene, I just don't know if I needed the presence of such a known actor in this role. Brian Dennehy plays John's father and his main task is to silently stare. Dennehy gets this right. Lennie James ("The Walking Dead") as Lt. Nabulsi will have you loving him for being so good at his job, and hating him for that same reason. Also, this is a sincere compliment. Great use of deaf actor Tyrone Giordano in his small role. Score: 8
TALKING: Sometimes it almost seems like a "how to" manual. I mean this as a great compliment. Once John goes to extreme measures to get his wife out of prison, I almost felt I shouldn't be learning some of the things he now knows. I mean, can a tennis ball really do that? Score: 8
SIGHTS: The type of glasses, the exhausted long looks, they all add up to Crowe looking the part. Just like Banks with her hair changing color but no one ever mentioning in while she's doing time. When the action finally picks up, you'll be on the edge of your seat. That's because director Haggis knows what he is doing. Score: 8
SOUNDS: There really seems to be only two songs in this film. Both are startling because you realize you're in a movie when they "take over" the scene. Moby's "Mistake" is terribly addictive and brings to mind David Bowie. While the songs are good, I think silence could have been better. Danny Elfman controls the musical score just like he always does. Score: 8
BEST SCENE: There are a few moments where you are thinking, "Wait, what couple possibly happen next?" None bigger when John drives past a highway exit.
ENDING: There are a couple endings, and while some might not be satisfied, I feel The Next Three Days totally earns it. Plus, the final shot of John lingers with me.
QUESTIONS: Really? I could do this? Well, maybe not me, but a real man? John's journey is insanely impressive. His father could have inquired a little bit sooner about his life though, right?
REWATCHABILITY: Looking forward to it. I think this thriller has the power to lull me into the first slow-moving 1.5 hours all over again and then make my palms sweat for the final 30 minutes.
What would I do if my wife is accused of murder and I believe she is innocent? That's the question that The Next Three Days actually pulls off. The most important part is the word I. Crowe's performance puts you in this situation. Most films and most actors don't have a chance at that. Don't believe me? Go see Denzel Washington's Unstoppable and tell me it feels real. John is at home trying to juggle teaching and raising his child, while his wife is in prison. He then adds something else to his table ... getting her out. It seemed like this would follow in the footsteps of Conviction starring Hillary Swank. Nope, The Next Three Days has other plans for you, and it will involve making your heart pound.
It's a thrill ride. Yes, I hate saying that, but it's true in this case. We watch John and Laura deal with the last three years, then the last three months. By the time we get to the next three days, we're totally hooked. The film delivers.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10