Paul Haggis is a director I’ve been a little back and forth on in my movie watching experience. I’ve mentioned before that I really enjoyed the film Crash based on it winning Best Picture. After another viewing, I realized the film was a little too direct in everything it was saying and there was no real subtext to the film. Everyone was saying exactly what they felt at all times, which can be a little annoying. I don’t particularly need everything to be force fed to me. I didn’t see his follow-up to Crash, In the Valley of Elah as I went to The Hurt Locker for my Iraq war film during that period. In his latest film, 2010’s The Next Three Days, Haggis again is a little sloppy, and force feeds some scripting points during the film but overall, it’s an enjoyable 2 hours with a fantastic car scene towards the end of the film.
When John, played by Russell Crowe and Lara, played by Elizabeth Banks, come home from dinner, they are quickly greeted with the police who accuse Lara of murder. Three years later, John is a struggling father of one, on his last appeal attempt. When that fails, he must take matters into his own hands and reunite his family, if they survive the next three days.
What I enjoyed the most with this film is the fact that I personally didn’t know where it was going. For most thriller films with a plot that’s set up like this one, there are clear formulas at work. With this film, there were some predictable aspects of it, but I was along for the ride from the beginning and that’s mostly due to the performances of Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks. This is the type of Russell Crowe I enjoy. I much prefer him as a dark, brooding character as opposed to a flippant annoyance as he was in State of Play, the latest work I had seen of his before this film. What Crowe plays at so well is the man unhinged. He’s broken at a point and while his direction is clear, he does what he can to save his family, he will do some unpredictable things to get at his end goal.
Banks is an actress I primarily know from her comedic work and she changes things up a bit here and goes for a more grounded performance is what I feel is a breakthrough for her. Initially she’s glamorous and looks familiar, however once she’s imprisoned, she’s stripped down emotionally and physically and proves that she can carry her fair share in some emotionally powerful scenes.
The only drawback for me is some of the scripting explains motivations or tells the audience some truths that I would rather see left buried. I think for me, I would rather see a film that’s left a little more ambiguous instead of holding your hand throughout the film. As I mentioned the action scene towards the end of the film is breathtaking, or as my wife would put it, “it almost made me throw up”. For those of you who know my wife, you’ll know that’s the indication of a good action scene. While the film isn’t trying to make a statement on anything in particular, thankfully, it’s a fun film with some nice performances. If Haggis continues on this path of less politically charged films and more entertainment based, I think he’ll be more successful and more highly thought of in the movie world.