I have enjoyed many screenplays that have been created by Paul Haggis. He has put out some great work. I think Russell Crowe can do no wrong. I love the thriller genre. The Next Three Days takes several elements that I consider "can't miss" and fails to deliver. Maybe my expectations were too high. Whatever the case, this film was mediocre. It wasn't the acting...but for an incredibly accomplished writer, Haggis dropped the ball on this one.
John Brennan (Russell Crowe) is a likable guy. However, he becomes obsessed when his wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) is charged with murder. The overwhelming evidence against Lara is hard to refute. After a conviction and appeals process that total three years, Lara's prospects appear bleak. The appeal fails and it is unlikely that a murder case will ever be heard by the Supreme Court. The couple have a young son, Luke (Ty Simpkins) who Brennan is also responsible for. It appears that Brennan will risk everything, including his son's future in order to get his wife out of jail. Even if he has to break her out.
The problem for me was in the writing. Haggis creates characters that simply lack credibility. The film relies heavily on contrived plot lines that left me feeling completely manipulated. The characters weren't that bad, but the amount of coincidence required for just small segments of this film to happen would be against any believable odds. There was a lot wrong, but the small parts added up and created fundamental credibility problems throughout the film. These items that are left to chance leave us with a character that is willing to die or spend the rest of his life in jail (depriving his son of both parents) to get his wife out of jail. That premise was hard for me to swallow.
So what about the details? Is it reasonable to believe that you could set fire to the floor of house that has a meth lab in the basement and not have it blow up? Would you take that risk knowing that the result would be a failed plan? What if that risk was only added for dramatic effect and didn't actually add anything to the plot? If you create a plan that has intricate details that should allow you to slip past the first line of police defense and make it to a train, would your plan then include pulling the emergency brake on the train to stop where you pre-staged a rental car? Or would that draw unnecessary attention to you when you could just as easily stage the car at the next train station?
Would you carefully design a plan that included renting a car under an assumed name so that it could not be traced to you, then use that car to pick your child up at a party where witnesses can identify it? Would you pick up riders who will later see you on the news and can identify your vehicle and direction of travel? Is it reasonable to assume that a local police department can shut down expanding perimeters and make notifications to airlines before asking for help from a larger (federal) agency? Would you purchase one-way international tickets with cash at the window with no luggage? I can guarantee THAT one will get you a secondary screening. Even without the secondary screening, isn't it likely that TSA is going to notice a large sum of bulk cash in your baggage? What are the odds that you will throw away a bag of garbage with a false lead in it with the intention that the police will do a trash pull and get sent off on the wrong trail?
This film left me with more questions than answers. I did not even touch on police procedures, which were completely off base. I had many more questions that I won't belabor. The point is, this filmed lacked credibility at every level. From the astronomical odds against each piece fitting together perfectly to the smaller details that make no sense to the larger themes that defeat the purpose. What it adds up to is an illogical exploration into a fantasy world where it is somehow okay to risk the lives of innocent people to try and free one innocent person. It simply makes no sense. I found myself rooting against the main character and hoping the plan failed miserably so I could see how Haggis resolved the pieces he would be left with. That would have been rewarding. Instead, we get a sappy sweet ending that defies logic.
The acting was great. I like Brian Dennehy who has a cameo as Crowe's dad. Crowe was exceptional even as I struggled with the credibility of his character. I had to separate the performance from the role to appreciate him, but I was still able to enjoy him. Banks was strong as well. I enjoyed her performance, which had me guessing a little bit. It is a shame that all of this talent was wasted on such a horrible script.
Haggis is a great writer. I loved Letters From Iwo Jima, Flags of Our Fathers, Crash and especially Million Dollar Baby. I guess every great writer in entitled to a flop. This film reived fairly good reviews from other viewers, so I guess my opinion will be in the minority on this one. When I watch a film, I want to be entertained without having my intellect insulted. This film required viewers to completely check their common sense at the door. For that reason, I would not recommend this film. 4.5/10.
Trailer and images subject to copyright.