Saturday, December 10, 2011

"The Next Three Days" (2010)

Starring Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks and Lennie James
Written by Paul Haggis, Fred Cavaye and Guillame Lemans
Directed by Paul Haggis
Rated PG-13 - Language, violence, drugs
Running Time: 133 Minutes

Not every movie needs to be a big tent-pole, AAA feature.  Sometimes you gather together a cast around a good script and you just make a solid movie that is entertaining, clever and dramatic and that's enough. 

Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) is arrested and convicted of murdering her boss in a parking garage after they'd gotten into a fight at work.  Her husband John (Russell Crowe), a teacher at a local community college, exhausts his resources looking after theirs on Luke (Ty Simpkins) and attempting to prove his wife's innocence.

When his lawyer (Daniel Stern) informs him that they have lost their appeal and that Lara will spend the rest of her life in prison, John begins to formulate a plan to break her out of jail and go on the run.  He uses his skills as a college professor to research the possibilities of breaking out prison.  He slowly puts together all the evidence he needs, and puts the pieces of his plan into place, but the truth is that he is not the kind of person who would normally be doing such things. 

John Brennan isn't a hardened criminal, or a take-charge kind of guy.  But he soon begins to realize that in order to get his wife out of prison, he may have to become both. 

"The Next Three Days" didn't ignite the box office, and it doesn't feature much in the way of huge-name stars (other than Crowe).  Much of the cast you'll recognize, as much of this world is populated by character actors and television stars.  Everyone gives fine, albeit not award-worthy, performances.  The film is a slow-burn, but bursts open in the third act as any good escape thriller should. 

Despite its lengthy runtime, "The Next Three Days" doesn't feel like a slog.  It is slow-moving for much of that runtime, but it's always fascinating to watch John bumble through the beginning stages of his planning.  He makes mistakes, and gets punished for them, which both provides some fine moments of suspense but also helps paint a portrait of a man who wants something, desperately, but doesn't really know how to get it.

Thankfully, the payoff for all of this is well worth the wait.  Much of the last act, with John and Lara on the run and having to make some hard choices in order to stay together and get away safely from the police, is breathless chase.  There are some great close scrapes, and one particularly thrilling near-crash on the highway. 

"The Next Three Days" is a solidly constructed, well acted thriller.  It moves at a bit of a slower pace, but is never boring.  Not much more to say about it, really.