Author: msroz from United States
4 October 2015
"The Next Three Days" (2010) is a likable and entertaining thriller done up in a modern style that fares well against its rivals in selling tickets and as a story. The story has excellent elements. A husband (Russell Crowe) believes his wife (Elizabeth Banks) not guilty of murder and breaks her out of jail. Being a naive schoolteacher, this requires lots of planning and pitfalls beforehand. Afterward, there will be a suspenseful race against time to possible success or failure as he is pursued by a very smart detective, Lennie James. The guilt or innocence of Banks will be left in doubt until the very end.
The story derives from the Hitchcock school with a generous helping of neo-noir built around the hero preparing for and engaging in several criminal acts and having to delve into the shadowy underworld. At the same time, the music and family scenes inject a dramatic sensibility unlike neo-noir, and the story tends to move more strongly into the action mode as it matures. The music especially either sets the inconsistent tone or fails to emphasize the darker possibilities. The story is pushing its drama of the wrong woman while simultaneously dipping into a prison break scenario that's much darker.
Although the story shows the preparations for the jail break, I felt that they could have been more detailed. I felt that the direction was rushed, rather blunt and not as suspenseful as it could have been. I felt that the story was glossing over the difficulties, instead going for hackneyed devices in places. What I was wishing for artistically was a more uniform neo-noir treatment throughout, but that may be bad box office or it simply may not be what the director and co-writer, Paul Haggis, wanted to put up on the screen.
As a mix of genres in the modern style, it's not bad. It could be a lot worse. Crowe is convincing. The behavior of his wife, her demeanor and actions in prison, are not explained well. Brian Dennehy builds a character despite having few lines. Liam Neeson secures his one scene nicely. But as an integrated work, its art too often shows its hand, coming from the writer's and director's manipulation of situation to produce suspense, and not seeming to be conveying a real situation growing out of the characters. This kind of story is very challenging to bring off. This is a solid attempt, quite successful, but surely not fully so.