Skip to content

The Next Three Days (2010) **

November 18, 2010

produced by: Michael Nozik, Olivier Delbosc, Paul Haggis & Marc Missonnier
directed by: Paul Haggis
rated PG-13 (for violence, drug material, language, some sexuality and thematic elements)
122 min.
U.S. release date: November 19, 2010
The beginning of “The Next Three Days” goes out of its way to convince you that a husband and wife are madly in love. They’re all over each other and crazy about their cute little boy and the life they’ve made for themselves in Pittsburgh, PA. The same can be said for writer/director Paul Haggis, who’s all over us as he goes out of his way to make us believe that a mild-mannered community college professor can break his seemingly innocent wife out of maximum security prison that no one has ever broken out of. You can either cringe through this preposterous action thriller or choose to get absorbed by the entertaining nonsense and just sit back and see how it all plays out. 
Family bliss is ripped from John Brennen (Russell Crowe) when police whisk away his sweet wife Laura (Elizabeth Banks) is accused of killing her boss. She’s sentenced to twenty in the slammer after all the evidence is stacked against her, but she swears she’s innocent and John won’t even entertain the possibility of Lara’s guilt. With no option for appeal, John’s only choice is to get her out of prison himself. He begins a long and dangerous journey, costly and rife with mishaps, all in an effort to bring his family back together.

NEXT THREE DAYS Elizabeth Banks

He seeks out repeat prison escape artist, Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson), takes notes on his ludicrous advice and begins the planning process. He gathers the necessary tools like his wife’s medical records, forged passports, and learns how to pick locks on YouTube. As months and years pass, John methodically goes over his carefully laid-out plans. This desperate man is ready, until a wrench is thrown in his plans when Lara is assigned a prison transfer. With his timetable suddenly altered, John must now take action before his wife and the opportunity to spring her is out of reach.  
Haggis takes a break from pulling heartstrings with dramas such as “Crash” and “In the Valley of Elah,” for a different genre while maintaining his signature heavy-handed approach.  Based on a seldom seen 2007 French film “Pour Elle”, (if you’re gonna remake a film, it helps if hardly anyone knows of the original)  Haggis cannot escape a meandering plot that soon becomes more preposterous than compelling.  His experience scribing the last couple Bond films, helps him deliver a stimulating  movie here that essentially winds up merely being an entertaining popcorn flick and nothing more.


At first, the palpable tension piques our interest, but then Haggis crudely hammers home every move John makes, spotlighting all requisite twists and turns. The director in Haggis respects the conventions of the thriller genre, as we see John plot out his elaborate escape plan. He knows how to absorb viewers and keep them at the edge of their seats, specially when John is shown visiting the seedy side of town. We see Crowe mingle with criminals lowlifes (RZA) for doctored passports, building a silent rapport with a mom (Olivia Wilde) at the playground, and watch as his suspecting father (an underused Brian Dennehy) notices him acting strangely. 
Haggis makes the most out of his Pittsburgh surroundings as we see John race all over town, with the clueless cops more than a few steps behind. Sure, there’s plenty of formula here, but at least Crowe never comes across as an action hero even though some of his actions don’t seem the least bit logical. The thing is, it doesn’t take long for us to jettison logic out the window.
Regardless of that, it’s easy to be satisfied by such a capable cast, surfacing some familiar character actors (Kevin Corrigan and Daniel Stern) who round out the cast. Audiences may not have seen this side of Banks before, who goes from sweet to sorta creepy, leaving us to question her take on the altercation with her boss. Unfortunately, Haggis feels the need to slap us upside the head with a completely unnecessary reveal at the end, not trusting that we would’ve put the pieces together. But, alas, that’s his m.o.
It’s too bad that reveal is just the beginning of an absurd ending. Through all the car chases (in John’s Prius, no less), misdirects, and jacket changes in order to evade the authorities, it becomes painfully clear that Haggis could’ve pruned at least ten minutes of fat. A leaner film may have proven to be a more suspenseful film too, instead of creeping past two hours with overstuffed padding.  
5 Comments leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    November 18, 2010 7:12 am

    sooo…..the premise is good, but the execution a bit heavy handed? Hmmm. Maybe it’s best to wait for it to be available on Netflix. Sounds like it will be a good pass the time movie. But maybe not something you’d want to spend 12 bucks at the theater on.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      November 18, 2010 8:33 am

      Yeah, that’s about right.

  2. francesca permalink
    April 5, 2011 1:39 pm

    I couldn’t help thinking throughout that Crowe’s character was kind of selfish, with regard to their child’s future – the things he was considering and then doing were just preposterous. The moral conflict this gave me (as I wasn’t sure if I believed the wife or not) plus his apparent idiocy nearly gave me a stress related heart attack.So yes, I quite enjoyed it.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      April 5, 2011 1:41 pm

      I see….stress-related heart attack = cinematic enjoyment!


  1. This Week on DVD & Bluray (03-08-11) « Keeping It Reel

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: