When: Thursday, 3 February - Thursday, 17 March
Where: Various cinemas
How much: $17.00
The Next Three Days is a film you could easily damn with faint praise. Written and directed by Paul Haggis (Crash, In the Valley of Elah) and staring ‘our own’ Russell Crowe, this remake of the French film Pour Elle is a good story well told: solid, meticulously crafted, with that similar, slightly old-fashioned feeling you got from watching a film like Salt. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable thriller, but one that barely lingers in your memory once you've left the cinema.
Crowe plays John Brennan, a college professor with a sizable middle age spread, happily married to Lara (Elizabeth Banks) and father of an adorable son Luke (Ty Simpkins). This picture-postcard familial contentment is obliterated when Lara is arrested then found guilty of murder — where her innocence casts an impressive question mark over the film. Three years down the track, with all appeals denied, John has radicalised into a desperate man, determined to instigate Lara’s prison break. A blatant, if handy scene articulates this transformation as John lectures his class on Don Quixote. Unfortunately Haggis doesn’t so much mine this vein as lean on the allusion and allow it to do all the thematic heavy lifting. But then again, the plan that unfolds certainly has its heart-in-your-mouth moments, excluding a distracting cameo from Liam Neeson that is.
Crowe carries The Next Three Days like a sturdy packhorse. He can do downtrodden but steely very well, and moreover he’s believable as an everyman following his nose, and using dubious YouTube tutorials to learn the tricks of the trade necessary to enact his daring jailbreak. After all, this isn’t Jason Bourne we’re talking about. Banks gets convincingly jail ugly and emotionally distraught, while Olivia Wilde and Brian Dennehy provide worthy if underwritten mirrors of John’s increasing dislocation from the real world.
No one can fault the precision of this film (there’s that faint praise again), but for all the life-or-death stakes, The Next Three Days seems to lack some spirit. Perhaps Haggis and Crowe are taking the material a tad too seriously, or perhaps there really isn’t anything wrong with a good story well told.
By Alice Tynan