Lose Who You Are To Save What You Love

Paul Haggis

Russell Crowe
Elizabeth Banks
Olivia Wilde
Liam Neeson

It didn’t dawn on me until just now that The Next Three Days is in fact a remake. In retrospect I should have picked up on the great deal of similarities between this effort and the original but I simply dismissed them as little more than that. Pour Elle was released only two years ago and was a fantastically engrossing French thriller about the lengths one man will go to save the woman he loves; wonderfully acted and decently presented, it was a very entertaining release. The problem seems to be I’m not entirely sure what to think of it in Paul Haggis’ hands. Granted, it’s solid, reasonably well-paced and adequately shot, this is a pleasing release but (as with ninety per cent of remakes) when compared with the original, it falls flat.

The film opens with the arrest of Lara Brennan [Banks], who has been accused of murdering her employer after a heated argument. The film jumps ahead a little and we learn that the evidence is considerable and Lara will more than likely serve her entire twenty year sentence; a fact which her husband, John [Crowe], cannot live with. As the lawyers refuse to send his appeals and all hope seems lost, John starts to devise a plan to break his wife out of prison – for the good of their son . . or something like that. Being an English teacher, his knowledge of such extensive criminal acts is limited, and as such John must consult with ex-convict and multiple escapee, Damon Pennington [Neeson]. Learning what he can, John sets out his entire plan on a wall in his home, trying to figure out the best means of escape, how long it will take, where to go after that and most importantly, how to drum up the money to finance the whole operation. Realistically, the majority of John’s investigations take a turn for the worst but with his wife attempting suicide and a prison transfer in place, Brennan has little choice but to act.

Being a film critic, I’ve seen a fair few prison break flicks, I’m quite the fan of the Fox TV series, Prison Break and I’ve seen the source material this film is based on – subsequently, I’m not in the best place to review this film because I have seen this plot laid out better in the past. The film rests heavily on Crowe’s performance and his actions, with the primary drive being a man devoted to his wife. Now, unlike other critics, I actually believed the whole Banks/Crowe on-screen relationship. I also liked the fact that Crowe’s ego didn’t get in the way and at no point did I believe his character would actually succeed (that’s not a spoiler, I’m not saying he does or doesn’t), he just doesn’t appear to be up to the task. Finally, there’s a fair amount of tension that builds (oh-so-very slowly) during each foray into the criminal world. But that’s it, the rest is very shaky.

First thing that threw me was a lack of a title card. I’m not saying it’s needed and in some places it can be very well placed, here it just felt absent. Then there’s the Pittsburgh police who mount their investigation into a series of seemingly unrelated crimes with little consistency. At times they are one step ahead of John, more than able to foil his crudely assembled plan and other times they seem completely bewildered as to what he’s going to do next — I realise that on paper that sounds like an accurate depiction of police work but something about the execution felt incredibly off. The score also needs a mention for its positive and negative elements; Danny Elman has produced a favourable and fitting effort but it’s largely forgettable and often retires quietly into the background – usually a sign of a composer in need of a paycheque. But the biggest flaw is the sheer lack of repercussion. I’m not going to give anything away but there is a distinct lack of ‘oh my God, what have I become’ moments, that would have humanised the character and added a little more credibility to the story.

Without prior knowledge of the original or a history of watching prison break materials, this film could have been more than entertaining. It could have been tense, gripping, exciting and thoroughly enjoyable. Instead, it’s pale and a little hollow. By all means, give this movie a go but don’t expect too much if you’ve seen similar plot threads before.

Release Date:
7th January 2011

The Scene To Look Out For:
**Massive spoiler moments within**
So, to detail the issue I have with Paul Haggis’ scriptwriting and direction: Granted, over the years he’s produced examples of quality cinema but without supervision he has a tendency to interject too many cliché elements and water-tight moral standpoints. A good example would be the criminal who sells the fake passport, driver’s licence and other documents to John – but he’s alright and won’t screw over John because he’s a deaf criminal . . . aww. Won’t be any repercussions there ’cause he’s deaf . . . aww. Also, it is eventually shown that John’s wife is innocent but in order to acquire the money he needs, John breaks into a drug dealer’s house (cum meth lab), shoots him and takes his money. Yes, yes, he was a drug dealer and he had it coming and it was all in self-defence, blah blah. None of that negates the fact that in trying to boost his wife from jail for a murder she did not commit, he becomes a murderer. Does he worry about it later? Nope, dude was a drug dealer. Fuck him. If he’d been deaf it would have been a completely different story.

Notable Characters:
As stated, Russell Crowe contains himself neatly within this role but it’s the supporting faces that seem to resonate the most. In particular, Neeson’s portrayal of the ex-con, Pennington, John’s almost mute father, played by Brian Dennehy and Lennie James as Lieutenant Nabulsi all deserve a mention.

Highlighted Quote:
“You want this too much, you’re going to fuck it up”

In A Few Words:
“Fairly decent thriller that only truly falls apart when compared with others in its niche genre”

Total Score: