Monday, November 22, 2010

"The Next Three Days"

The Next Three Days - Written and directed by Paul Haggis (based on a script by Fred CavayƩ and Guillaume Lemans, starring Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde, and Brian Dennehy - Rated PG-13

Hey America, wizards are cool and all, but Russell Crowe deserves some attention, too.

Russell Crowe is a refreshing rarity in the cinemas these days: he consistently makes movies for adults. While the masses clamor for an aging action star (a la Stallone, Willis, Neeson), Crowe has chosen roles in films that feature minimal action (even Robin Hood was light on the action as far as historical epics go). Unfortunately this means almost no one will watch movies like The Next Three Days. A very small percentage of the movie-going public wants to see a slow moving thriller these days and Crowe isn’t the draw he used to be. I’m glad he still makes movies like this, though, and hopefully a bigger audience will develop soon.

The Next Three Days is about John Brennan (Crowe), a Literature professor enjoying a quiet life with his wife, Lara (Elizabeth Banks), and their young son. They’re enjoying breakfast one morning when the police barge in and arrest Lara for murder. Cut to two years later and Lara has been convicted and is most likely going to die in prison. John decides to take matters into his own hands and break her out.

You may be thinking, “All right! Action packed prison break movie!” That is certainly not the case. This is a realistic movie about what it takes to break someone out. It’s not just about the logistics, though. It’s more about determination and just how far someone is willing to go to save someone they love. At this point, a good question might be, “Is John’s wife guilty of the crime?” In other words, is she even worth breaking out? The Next Three Days is interesting in the fact that all we have is John’s belief to convince us of Lara’s innocence. The pieces of evidence we sporadically receive seem to point towards the guilty verdict.

Planning and determination doesn’t scream entertainment, sure, but it works for character development. It really works when Russell Crowe is that character. I find Crowe utterly convincing in nearly every role and he continues to impress in The Next Three Days. He’s great at showing intense determination and it’s easy to get on his side in a film. He’s the only one who believes in his wife’s innocence? Good enough for me, I believe him.

Believing in a character is important, but when it comes to prison break movies, the plot must be just as believable. The Next Three Days, as far as I can tell, is very realistic…or at least it seems realistic. Now, I don’t know how hard it is to actually get reliable fake passports or anything like that, but this movie at least makes it seem more difficult than most films. Usually it’s a phone call and the documents are there. In a film like this, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

The entire process of how to possibly break someone out is set up early on in a cameo with Liam Neeson (don’t be fooled by the preview, Neeson is only in the film for a couple of minutes). He talks about how difficult it is to break out and how luck is a major factor. While this film is realistic, it also relies on luck quite a bit. I didn’t find the good or bad luck to be ridiculous, though.

Because an entire process is set up in this film, it might start to feel long. I didn’t really mind watching the planning stages, though. It was nice to see a movie about the “how” of an event rather than the event itself. That’s not to say this film doesn’t have any action. There are some very tense chase sequences and a great scene in a drug dealer’s house. The Next Three Days also includes a surprising and visually impressive scene featuring an out of control car. I don’t want to give the details, but I imagine you’ll be impressed when you see it. Director Paul Haggis (In the Valley of Elah, Crash) seems to be growing as a filmmaker with this one.

Haggis also adapted the script, from the French film Pour Elle, though I can’t say if it’s a faithful adaptation or if he even made it his own because the original film isn’t very available. Either way, I felt that he wrote a well thought out film. Whenever a new character showed up, like Olivia Wilde as a potential new love interest for Crowe, I asked why this character was wasting screen time. But the questions were always answered. In fact, one might say that the film answers too many questions. The film answers the question of Lara’s guilt. I thought that was questionable. I liked the ambiguousness of Crowe’s quest.

I call it a “quest” because Crowe mentions Don Quixote earlier in the film and questions the idea of the quest and what kind of world the hero lives in. Crowe is obviously a quixotic character in that he is a common man attempting to commit an ambitious crime even by veteran criminal standards. I found this connection very interesting and it tied into the whole theme of determination in the face of seeming uselessness.

The Next Three Days leaves something to ponder, provides an emotional punch, contains some tense action, and tells the story of a determined man planning a nearly impossible task. It feels long and gives a few more answers than I would like, but I was still very impressed with it. It was good to see a slow film that builds character and suspense. Even though I’m in the minority, I hope Crowe keeps this up…and I hope the studios keep putting the money up for it.

Random Thoughts

It was great to see Brian Dennehy in this. He seemed wasted for most of the film, but his quiet performance really pays off in the end.

I didn't mention it above, but Banks does a very good job in this film. She worked well alongside Crowe in their prison visit scenes.

Of course, Kevin Corrigan as...the drug dealer. It's great to see Corrigan, but he plays the five minute scumbag role far too often. I really hope he breaks out in some bigger roles soon.

I acknowledge that this film is completely implausible at times (the tennis ball to unlock a car is a bit whacky), but it works. When compared to Law Abiding Citizen, this movie is a documentary, so I give it a pass for the minor transgressions.

No comments:

Post a Comment