Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Action,Thrillers The Next Three Days (2010)

The Next Three Days (2010)

I can’t recall whether it was the theatrical trailer, other trailer, or television spot, but one of these means of advertising The Next Three Days used Liam Neeson to explain how one can go about robbing a bank. This is both a deceptive and very smart method of getting people interested in your movie. I know a lot of people who would listen to Liam Neeson all day long, let alone watch him act. I call it deceptive because Neeson is only in one scene in the final product.

He also gets to basically say everything that was in that trailer/TV spot, and not much more. At this point in the film, Russell Crowe’s character, John, is considering attempting a jail break. Neeson’s character has escaped from seven prisons before, so he is a good person to ask for advice. Who does John want to spring? His wife, Lara (Elizabeth Banks), as she has been convicted of murder. Whether she did it or not is something that is only actually revealed much later in the film, but John doesn’t care anyway: He has decided that she is innocent.

Of course, we don’t begin this way. He deals with the conviction the way most people would: Complete denial. We actually spend several years with him before he actually does anything about it. He and his son, Luke (Ty Simpkins), go about their lives, although the child grows distant from both parents. John continues teaching at a community college, although it’s clear that there’s no passion to his work. It’s then when the thought of breaking Lara out of jail comes forward.

More than half of The Next Three Days is spent planning the jailbreak. It’s quite slowly paced at this point. As Neeson explains, every detail needs to be planned. This results in a lot of downtime, as well as a lot of failed attempts to acquire the necessary materials needed in order to spring her from jail. For instance, he spends a great deal of time attempting to acquire fake passports and other documents so that the two can use the airports and escape the country.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of things weighing this film down. Thrilling movies don’t need to be a thrill-a-second extravaganza, but including a ton of unimportant, unrelated and pointless details don’t help anything. For instance, there’s a woman named Nicole (Olivia Wilde) who eventually befriends John, but absolutely nothing comes of it, and it turns out to be a simple convenience for the plot when she begins to matter — a role that could have been established by two characters we’ve already grown to know, John’s parents.

Meanwhile, there are a few detectives and cops that get involved once the escape attempt begins. They’re led by Lennie James, which I don’t think can ever be a disappointment. Once they get involved in the chase, the film got much better. It was genuinely thrilling in its final 30 or so minutes, and I was really entertained at this point. It just takes way too long to actually get to this point, even if watching Russell Crowe run around a city is enjoyable in its own right.

The plot eventually relies very heavily on convenience and coincidence. It makes sense that the director is Paul Haggis, whose Crash won an Academy Award for Best Picture, and also relied on similar elements. Here, it isn’t about interconnecting storylines, as there aren’t a bunch of different mini-stories, but instead, a plot that’s ridiculous if you ever take a step back to look at it with an objective lens. A film relying on that kind of plot has to keep us involved so that the cynics among us don’t start poking holes. The real question is whether or not The Next Three Days can engage us so thoroughly as to overlook a silly plot.

For me, I felt involved only after the prison break begins. Before, when all we do is spend a bunch of time with Russell Crowe, rarely accomplishing anything, I was only intermittently excited. There are points that work, but it’s on the whole too slow to completely come together. Once the plan, which we’ve been building up to for about an hour and a half, is put into practice, this becomes a really fun movie. We’re just not captivated up until that point, which is the majority of the film.

If there’s something that the film does really well, it’s bring us very good acting. Paul Haggis knows how to get solid performances from his actors. Here, Russell Crowe is quite fun to watch as the father who needs to save his family, while Lennie James is also enjoyable to watch (as he usually is). Perhaps the biggest surprise, acting-wise, comes from Elizabeth Banks. She’s in a largely underutilized role, spending most of her time behind bars, but it has some emotional depth, and there’s one scene in particular which could either make or break one of the subplots. She has to go from sweet and innocent to menacing in a single glance, and she pulls it off. I was scared.

The Next Three Days is mostly fun, but is too slow at times to keep the audience paying attention. It’s not a complex film, nor does it need to be, but it does contain a lot of elements that should have been excluded, as they only hindered the story. It lasts 133 minutes, but should have been shorter. Regardless, I enjoyed it, and the two leads turn in really good performances. It certainly didn’t feel like a waste of time, and I might even watch it again someday. I wanted more Liam Neeson, though.

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