The couple’s name start out The Next Three Days as a typical (although possibly slightly happier than average) married couple living the suburban dream, with few cares or worries, until one day, out of the blue, she’s unsuspectingly arrested, and charged with murder; leaving her husband to not only raise their toddler, but do everything he can to get his wife out of jail.
Russell Crowe (Gladiator) stars as John Brennan and spends the first part of the film struggling to free his wife Lara by any legal means necessary; a feat made much more difficult by the fact she openly hated the murder victim (a colleague of hers), was spotted at the murder scene, and even had the victim’s blood on her clothing; and when that inevitably fails, he decides to take matters even further (refusing to believe his wife could be guilty), and begins constructing an elaborate plan to break his vulnerable wife out of prison.
Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks, Zack and Miri Make a Porno) remains unaware of John’s plans, as we spend the majority of the film watching him not only defend his wife to naysayers at his children’s school, and everywhere else, but devise and attempt to execute his elaborate yet unrealistic plan; as he’s told numerous times (by many people in the know; including a drug dealer, fake-passport-pusher, and former prison escapist) that’s he’s too invested and will mess it up, and lacks any of the skills necessary to complete the dangerous task ahead (being a wet, suburban, father, who doesn’t even know how to load a gun), save for one, determination.
John’s plan is therefore absurd, yet makes for pretty compelling viewing, as a prison escape movie is always solid viewing, and The Next Three Days leaves every viewer wondering, if he really is that wet, can he pull it off? and wanting to see all the pitfalls and tests that await him along his perilous journey, as he lies to friends and family, in order to get the job done as secretly and as effectively as he possibly can, and hopefully free the wife who’s innocence we are still unsure of.
Crowe is more than able to pull off a role like this, and despite his strength and intensity actually plays the wet and doting husband/father fairly well; appearing ever bit as scared and vulnerable as he needs to, yet having the strength to make the break-out attempt that much more believable (even though, given his character, it stays ridiculous no matter how you slice it); and is complimented by not only Elizabeth Banks; who’s surprisingly strong in her role, and manages to create a suitable amount of doubt to her guilt/innocence to remain intriguing; but a strong supporting cast that includes brief appearances from Liam Neeson (Taken); as a prison escapee who talks John through the perils of escape; Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy); as a supportive friend of John’s; Daniel Stern (Home Alone); as John’s Lawyer; and Brian Dennehy (First Blood); as his father.
While generally confined to the latter half of the film,the action is solid, the direction is sound, and the tension The Next Three Days creates is truly gripping (even just in trying to figure out how the piece’s of John’s plan fit together), as you wonder if he really will pull it off, and escape with both his wife and young son, in spite of his limited experience, and apparent unwillingness to pull the trigger.
The Next Three Days has it’s issues; it’s a little corny, very difficult to believe that a goody-two-shoes such as John could even contemplate, let alone get away with, attempting a prison break, and throws in a few needless plot elements that lower the film as a whole (definitively answering the question of Lara’s guilt towards the end ruined the movie for some); yet the acting is at worst respectable, at best very good, the action is solid, and the tension is gripping; making The Next Three Days a very entertaining popcorn movie.
Similar to the movie itself the picture quality of The Next Three Days DVD is solid, but not stellar, as it contains solid levels of detail, strong black levels, naturalistic skintones, and strong colour representation; all of which make for a good quality, easy-to-watch, image, but unfortunately one that’s not quite strong enough to make a lasting impression, despite being relatively free of flaws.
The Next Three Days’ audio (which comes by way of a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix) is similarly strong; being both clear and concise, well leveled, with crisp dialogue, a strong score, impactful bass, strong directional effects, and naturalistic atmospherics (even if the ambience isn’t present as often as it could be); easily doing its job in both the more intense action sequences, and quieter moments, but failing to be more than a fairly standard mix.
Also faring well is the selection of special features included on the disc; which should please any fan of the film; as the consist of not only an interesting and informative audio commentary, a decent making of (discussing the French film from which The Next Three Days was remade; Pour Elle; and the film’s production), and a collection of deleted and extended scenes (which are surprisingly worth watching), but a mildly amusing gag-reel, a featurette covering real-life prison escapes for love (which is surprisingly interesting, and a brilliant inclusion), and a feature consisting of profiles of Russell Crowe, Liam Neeson, and Brian Dennehy; making for a solid all-round collection that’s not only entertaining and informative, but more than you’re likely to get with most modern releases.
The Bottom Line:
The Next Three Days isn’t quite the masterpiece of emotion and espionage it could have been, yet its reverse heist theme, John’s planning, and the way in which it all comes together, in a lengthy and revealing chase sequence, makes it well worth a watch; sure Crowe and Banks could better showcase their acting talents elsewhere (and have done in the past), but The Next Three Days although, largely forgettable, is an enjoyable piece of escapism.
Plus, as home releases go, you could do a lot worse than The Next Three Days, which comes to DVD with both solid picture and audio quality, as well as a number of special features which are bound to reward, please, and satisfy it’s fans in equal measure; ensuring anyone who buys the DVD, and enjoys the film, should have no cause for complaint.
Three days after watching The Next Three Days you’ll probably have forgotten almost the entire film; a movie with decent actors, a good director (Paul Haggis, Crash), and a plot that’s easy to get behind; it suffers from lob-sided pacing (viewers will only really care about the last 45 minutes of the film) and having a truly absurd plot that’s extremely difficult to believe, yet as escapism goes, The Next Three Days hits the mark, manages to ramp up a little tension along the way, and remain thoroughly entertaining throughout; making for a film that’s good, but not great, and certainly worth a rent.