The Next Three Days
Make A Break For It
A few weeks ago, a movie called Conviction was released and told the story of a woman who believed so strongly that her brother was innocent of the murder charges that landed him in prison for life that she dedicated her life to setting him free. She chose the legal method, spending years putting herself through school in order to eventually become her brother’s lawyer and find the evidence to set him free. The new film The Next Three Days also focuses on a character that is so convinced of a loved one’s innocence that he is willing to do whatever it takes to set her free. The difference is that in this case, he chooses the illegal method.
While having dinner out, Laura Brennan complains about the fight she had earlier in the day with her boss. The next morning, the Pittsburgh police are knocking on her door with an arrest warrant. Her boss ended up dead after their encounter and the evidence is stacked strongly against Laura. While she goes to jail for life, her husband John does everything he can to get her an appeal, but it’s a no-go. The news that she’s not going to get out turns Laura into a suicide risk and John can’t just sit around and watch.
John begins the meticulous planning of a prison break, getting advice from an ex-con and a library full of books on prisons. Despite being played by Russell Crowe, John is far from the tough guy—he teaches literature, of all things—but in order to pull the job off he’s got to learn things like navigating the criminal underground for fake passports, picking locks, and loading a gun. Fortunately, you can find tips on how to do most of that stuff on YouTube.
Based on the 2007 French film Pour Elle, The Next Three Days focuses more on the preparation than the jailbreak itself. The prison break takes up about the last thirty minutes of the film and as cinematic prison breaks go, it’s somewhere in the middle. There are some clever twists as John is forced to get creative when their escape doesn’t go exactly as planned, but the tension during the sequence deflates rather than builds. The ease of tension leads to an ending that drags. The movie saves the revelation about Laura’s innocence or guilt to the very end, but by that time it just seems superfluous.
The fact that the movie hides the truth about Laura’s involvement, or lack thereof, in her boss’s murder does nothing to help the audience side with her in this story. John is a bit of an everyman and the audience gets to see him bond with his son while hearing stories of his somewhat strained relationship with his own father, so we identify with him; we want him to succeed in his mission and find happiness. When we first meet Laura, she’s angry and complaining. We suspect she was a wonderful mother, but we never really see it. Add this to the fact that she makes some really questionable decisions during the actual prison break and the audience begins to wonder if we really want her to make it. It’s difficult to have a prison break movie when the audience isn’t rooting for the escapee.
It’s a compliment to Crowe that the actor can play characters as larger-than-life as Maximus, Captain Jack Aubrey, and Bud White, yet still pull off the perfectly believable everyman. It’s the vulnerability the actor is willing to show, such as embarrassing moment after he is caught practicing his escape plan. Speaking of actors who have made a living playing larger-than-life characters, Liam Neeson has a brief, but excellent role as an ex-con who advises John. I also liked Lennie James as the cop leading the pursuit, but he is introduced far too late and suddenly into the movie, almost as if there were scenes introducing him that ended up on the cutting room floor.
There are a few more scenes that could also have been cut from this movie that drags in all the wrong places. It’s these lapses in tension that keep The Next Three Days from being the thoroughly engrossing thriller it had the potential to be.
The Next Three Days is rated PG-13 for “violence, drug material, language, some sexuality and thematic elements.” The prison break sequence itself is not too violent, but some of the earlier sequences where John is forced into the criminal underworld are enough to warrant the rating.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of The Next Three Days.