DIR/WRI: Paul Haggis • PRO: Olivier Delbosc, Paul Haggis, Marc Missonnier, Michael Nozik, • DOP: Stéphane Fontaine • ED: Jo Francis • DES: Laurence Bennett • CAST: Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Russell Crowe
When your wife has been sent to prison charged with murder and your only hope of an appeal depends on the skills of your lawyer, who just happens to be the tall burglar from Home Alone, you should be concerned. And John (Russell Crowe) is certainly concerned as he believes his wife to be innocent. Concerned enough to consider breaking her out of prison despite his status as a middle-class parent and teacher who wears jumpers and drives an environmentally friendly Toyota Prius. The Next Three Days is an Americanisation of the acclaimed French thriller of 2008, Pour Elle, and is adapted and directed by Oscar®-winning writer and director of Crash, Paul Haggis.
The most appealing aspect of The Next Three Days is its attempt at realism. An early cameo by a thickly accented and heavily scarred Liam Neeson explains the complexities involved in a prison escape to the tame bespectacled Russell Crowe. Much of the film is taken up with this conundrum as our jumper wearing hero struggles under the mental, physical and financial strains necessary in planning and undertaking a prison break. When you consider that it took Michael Scofield twenty two episodes and several trips to a tattooist to bust his brother out in the TV series Prison Break you get a good idea of how much Jumper John has to accomplish in two hours.
Where The Next Three Days fails in spite of its admirable efforts at realism is in the casting of Russell Crowe as John. It’s like watching the familiar story of the ugly duckling played by a blonde bombshell who becomes a beautiful swan when she undergoes the transformation of removing her glasses and letting her hair down. If someone told you they were going to cast Russell Crowe in a film about a prison break you would say that makes sense because that sounds like something Russell Crowe could accomplish. Surely a Philip Seymour Hoffman or William H. Macy would be more comfortable in a jumper and spectacles and less inclined to undertake a prison break?
While it could have been tedious watching John of the Jumpers run into setback after setback, The Next Three Days instead makes for compulsive viewing as you begin to speculate that the film could well end with John sitting at home in his jumper and spectacles correcting exams while his wife endures in prison. You can’t help but nod in recognition as John searches the omnipotent Youtube for DIY videos on prison breaks and is rewarded with some interesting techniques on ways to open doors with a ‘bump key’ or break into a car using only a tennis ball. Good ol’ Youtube, is there anything we can’t learn from you?
Once you conquer the absurdity of Russell Crowe as a teacher who wears jumpers and drives the ‘mean but green’ Toyota Prius, The Next Three Days is a gripping thriller and well worth an evening.
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The Next Three Days is released 7th Jan 2011