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The Next Three Days(2010)
John, Lara, and Luke Brennan are living the dream. In a blink of an eye their life becomes a cruel nightmare. The lightning quick invasion of their home is shocking and heart wrenching. Horrified, Lara is ripped away from her husband and son before their very eyes. She stands accused and eventually is convicted of murder. In the years that follow, each of them attempt to deal with the judgement bestowed upon her. Knowing with certainty that Lara did not commit the fatal act that she is about to pay for, John makes a fateful decision that will affect the three of them for the rest of their lives!
For more about The Next Three Days and the The Next Three Days Blu-ray release, see the The Next Three Days Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on February 20, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Michael Buie, Moran Atias, Remy Nozik
Director: Paul Haggis
» See full cast & crew
The Next Three Days Blu-ray Review
Three Days of the Con.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, February 20, 2011
Have you ever experienced a recurring dream or nightmare? Strangely, humans seem almost preprogrammed to undergo several categories of this odd phenomenon. Most of us have had the occasional foray into the "unprepared" dreamscape, where we're suddenly back in school on a big test day, without having studied, or conversely find ourselves in our workplace where some project is due and we don't have a clue how to complete it. Another frequently visited dream reality seems to be the "unfairly accused" situation, where we suddenly are ensconced in some sort of criminal activity where often we've participated only tangentially, as in walking by when a crime is committed, but then find ourselves the main suspect. Why we seem to be genetically mapped to suffer these strange nightmare scenarios is a question better left to neurologists and/or psychiatrists, but film has always had a close relationship with exploiting the fears which underlie both of these frequently experienced dream worlds, and writer-director Paul Haggis (Crash, thirtysomething) visits some well-worn territory with regard to the "unfairly accused" scenario in The Next Three Days, a fitfully entertaining thriller starring Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks in a remake of a French film from 2007 entitled Pour Elle. In the American version, Crowe plays a Pittsburgh literature professor named John Brennan whose wife Lara (Banks) ends up jailed for life for a murder she (probably) didn't commit. The film spends a great deal of its over two hour running time setting up the domestic situation of the Brennan household, then quickly dissolving that relative tranquility with an over the top interlude where police break into the Brennan home, arrest Lara for the murder of her boss, and leave John and their toddler son to pick up the pieces. Lara's subsequent appeals are denied, leading to a suicide attempt, and John is left to figure out a way to escape his living nightmare.
Just this short précis in and of itself already points out the major problem with The Next Three Days. It isn't just wildly improbable, it is so completely and utterly unbelievable that it becomes something of a waking dream within just moments of its initial plot setup. A mild mannered college professor somehow is magically transformed into a heroic prison break expert who increasingly visits his "dark side" as he crafts an ingenious plan to spring his (probably) wrongfully accused wife from her life sentence of incarceration. The film only gets more and more implausible as it moves along, with John first contacting a prison break expert (Liam Neeson in a short and fairly useless cameo), and then getting involved in everything from robbing drug runners to mining YouTube for planning help (one of the more unintentionally funny aspects of the film) to becoming a sort of reckless vengeance seeker (albeit all in the name of justice), a la Charles Bronson in the old Death Wish series.
The film is structurally interesting at least, starting about midpoint in the story, and then backtracking for a while and then hurtling forward into what is inarguably its most effective—if no less ridiculously unbelievable—segment, as John masterminds Lara's escape from prison. One of the problems here, though, is that Haggis spends too much time on the setup, leaving the admittedly exciting escape sequence dangling almost as an afterthought, when it really should be the primary focus of the film. The film is also littered with so many logical problems that it repeatedly shoots itself in the foot for any viewer who pauses to think about things too long.
Why for instance does a SWAT team descend upon the quiet suburban home of John and Lara and proceed to restrain John while terrorizing their tot, even if they do suspect mild mannered office worker Lara has murdered her boss? Wouldn't it have been better to send a couple of plainesclothes cops to simply arrest her? Why do the ID forgers John contacts fly around Pittsburgh on insanely speedy and noisy motorcycles when they want to maintain their anonymity? Later, John puts the family home up for sale in order to raise some cash for the planned escape. And yet this same home features a huge wall where he has pasted all of his insanely complex escape plans. How did the realtor handle those showings? "Don't mind this, it will all come down easily and a new coat of paint will fix it all up good as new!" John's increasingly desperate attempt to get enough cash turns him almost overnight into a gun wielding desperado who, morally tortured though he is, finds enough strength to dispatch a nemesis or two without so much as a second thought. Haggis pretty much skips over the moral implications of this last plot device, despite Crowe's attempts to convey some horror at his character's behavior, however briefly (some of the deleted and extended scenes do give an extra beat or two to this element). Haggis also attempts, probably unwisely, to inject a literary bent into this basic thriller premise by having Crowe's character wax philosophical in one of his college lectures about the conflict between rationality and "the impossible dream" in Cervantes' Don Quixote.
What works impeccably here are the two lead performances by Crowe and Banks (who increasingly looks like Chelsea Handler's more glamorous sister—sorry, Chels). Crowe, so usually bristling with machismo it fairly oozes off the screen, is surprisingly effective here in a sort of "nerd" role, a husband and father who finds himself thrust into a world of crime and despair that he must quickly learn to navigate. And Banks is well modulated between pathos and subtle shadings of initially unexplained guilt, which helps to also give the film a nice, if obviously artificial, nod toward ambiguity. The flashback to the murder scene is deliberately left open to speculation: could Lara have actually committed this killing? Why does she look so damned guilty in the moments before her arrest? Brian Dennehy is also very good in a too brief role as Crowe's crusty father.
Ultimately your personal enjoyment of The Next Three Days will hinge largely on a concatenation of your willingness to suspend belief along with a requisite amount of patience to let the film slowly amble toward that final 45 minutes or so, when all hell breaks loose. Haggis makes a perhaps fatal misstep in letting that crazy-wonderful finale wait too long, which gives the more questioning viewer too much time to think about a number of inconsistencies in the story, which in turn separates the viewer from what is on its face a viscerally exciting final third or so of the film. But for those who are willing to let those two problems just lie there like dead drug dealers after a robbery gone wrong (you'll understand that reference once you see the film), The Next Three Days offers a brisk and thrilling chase sequence that points out Haggis' strengths in staging multiple points of view and simultaneously unfolding timelines, something he did so effortlessly in Crash a few years ago. Unlike Crash however, which had its own flirtation with improbability, The Next Three Days is so ridiculously far-fetched most of the time that it divorces and ultimately wakes itself from even its own nightmarish ambitions.
The Next Three Days Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Next Three Days is offered on Blu-ray with an excellently sharp and vivid AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. Pittsburgh is not usually thought of as the most scenic city in the world (and I can say that since most of my mother's family comes from there), but under the direction of Haggis and the sometimes breathtaking cinematography of Stéphane Fontaine, Pittsburgh comes fully alive in this high definition presentation. Some of the establishing aerial shots are so lucidly clear and lushly saturated they may elicit gasps of amazement. The bulk of the film plays out in a sort of gritty, blue-green hue that seems to mirror John's slow descent into moral ambiguity. Because a lot of the film is intentionally dark, occasionally fine detail or contrast suffer slightly, with moderate but never severe crushing in some of the darkest scenes. There's also a hint of softness in some of the segments, notably the prison sequences between Crowe and Banks, but overall the film looks amazingly sharp and clear in the vast majority of sequences. Grain is completely natural looking and the nicely variegated palette is very well displayed in this very nice looking transfer.
The Next Three Days Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Next Three Days is presented with a blisteringly effective lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix. This is an artfully constructed surround mix which is cinematic in the best sense of the term. It doesn't browbeat the listener with too much information all of the time. Instead we get a very nicely modulated series of sequences, with smaller scale dialogue moments intercut with bombastic action sequences. The film starts off relatively mildly, despite the disturbing opening scene, but then erupts into a flurry of surround activity when seemingly every available Pittsburgh police officer decends on the Brennan household. Things quiet down again, though we get some very nice and natural surround activity throughout the many urban shots John passes through, until finally we get the free-wheeling final third of the film, which is simply a riot of sonic activity as John and Lara attempt to escape as again seemingly every policeman in Pittsburgh is hot on their tail. Fidelity is excellent throughout this mix, with dialogue crisp and clean and sound effects providing a wealth of sonic oomph, including some very boisterous LFE. Special note (no pun intended) should be made of a very unusual score for Danny Elfman, working very, very effectively in this mix, which is free of some of the Tim Burton mannerisms he tends to fall into too often.
The Next Three Days Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Next Three Days offers these supplements:
The Next Three Days Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Next Three Days is a lot like an amusement park experience in Anaheim or Orlando. You wait around for a seemingly interminable time, and then you get a few minutes of rip-roaring roller coaster action. The final third of this film works brilliantly, despite its logical lapses, if only because Haggis stages everything at such a breakneck pace. Getting to that final third is a pretty slow slog and it includes some troubling aspects which the final cut of the film don't adequately address. Still and all, Crowe and Banks are wonderful and are obviously charismatic and easy to watch, and the film offers some gorgeous shots of a city not thought of (fairly or unfairly) as being overly picturesque. Recommended.
The Next Three Days: Other Editions
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