While viewing Paul Haggis’ thriller “The Next Three Days,” an ancient expression comes to mind: love conquers all. In this film, an average man’s overwhelming love for his wife compels him to make a series of morally questionable choices. Ultimately these decisions will test his strength of will because they involve inhabiting in an ethically gray area most people never visit during their lifetime.
John (Russell Crowe) and Laura’s (Elizabeth Banks) picturesque life is thrown into chaos when Laura is arrested under suspicion of murder. With a wealth of serious evidence against her, Laura is swiftly convicted and carted away to prison.
Three years later, John, a school teacher and single parent, is unsuccessfully fighting the court system to appeal his wife’s case. Even though John realizes Laura’s defense is hopeless, he refuses to give up because he unshakably believes in her innocence.
The failure of his latest attempt at appeal prompts John to take more drastic measures to get his wife back. He begins researching the subject of prison breaks, even consulting an expert (Liam Neeson) on the important factors to consider when engineering an escape plan. From here the film takes off, as John singularly devotes himself to his new cause.
Under Haggis’ writing and direction this thriller starts out as a slow burn in the preparation stages of the scheme, escalating to a full blown inferno in its execution. Haggis effectively places the seeds of doubt that John will accomplish his goal, through a series of bumbled attempts to procure help from the criminal world.
Once Haggis has firmly established your doubt as a viewer though, he sets the wheels of John’s plan in motion, unraveling a complex series of cons that will have you on the edge of your seat. As the viewer, you will think you’ve thought of all the angles just like the authorities chasing John and Laura in the film, yet John’s cunning will continue to surprise you.
With his hit 2004 film “Crash” and his short lived television series “The Black Donnellys” Paul Haggis has shown a penchant for writing about characters that are forced to lie, steal, or kill for those they care about. It comes as no surprise then that Olivia Wilde, Jonathan Tucker, and Kevin Corrigan from “The Black Donnellys” appear in various parts of “The Next Three Days.” In this movie, John Brennan lives in the exact same morally gray territory Haggis writes so well because of the things he must do to free his wife.
Russell Crowe’s performance as John Brennan is equally as astonishing his character’s wit. Despite Crowe’s history as an action hero, he convincingly portrays an everyman stumbling into the world of crime. He shows us that even though John is a man motivated by love that he will carry guilt for the bad things he has done the rest of his life. It is obvious in Crowe’s face that John will move on like most normal people, but in the back of his mind he will always remain haunted by his experience.
My Grade: B+