The Next Three Days

The Next Three Days

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.

Peter White

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)

The Next Three Days is released 7th Jan 2011

The Next Three Days – Official Website

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Robin Hood

Robin Hood

DIR: Ridley Scott • WRI: Brian Helgeland, Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris • PRO: Russell Crowe, Brian Grazer, Ridley Scott • DOP: John Mathieson • ED: Pietro Scalia • DES: Arthur Max • CAST: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Max von Sydow, William Hurt

They say every nation gets the government it deserves, and if that adage is true, no one told the plebs of middle England, ca. sometime ages ago. In Robin Hood, we are thrust into a turbulent world of medieval political upheaval – was there any other kind of medieval politicking? – in a dark and gritty adventure that would make Errol Flynn blush. Men in Tights it ain’t. And if every generation gets its own twist on the famous yarn, then director Ridley Scott has served this one well.

Robin Hood sees the copper fastening of the myth into historical and political context in a daring interpretation from Scott. Sandwiched between the murky and bloodthirsty reigns of Plantagenet kings Richard The Lionheart and John of England, what we have here could be dubbed ‘Robin Hood: The Backstory’. And it works.

Opening with warmongering Richard’s demise on a French battlefield, we are given a flavour of the man that would be Robin Hood. Russell Crowe plays archer Robin Longstride, replete with fortitude, loyalty and moderate charisma. When he stumbles on the vanquished king’s aides ferrying the crown back to England, he and his merry men’s fortunes take a turn for the better.

Entrusted with returning a family heirloom to its owner by a dying aide, the gang sets off on its merry way – with the king’s crown in a satchel for good measure – to relay the news of the monarch’s demise and to make good on Longstride’s promise. Events soon lead them to Nottinghamshire, where Robin goes on a journey of self discovery, not to mention an unscrupulous turn of identity theft. It is here that we begin to see the myth in its embryonic form. There are shades of the man that would be credited for all eternity as ‘robbing from the rich to give to the poor’, but here we see a Robin preoccupied with the politics of the day.

The usual suspects are all present and correct, with a curious sense of anticipation as to how events will lead to the hijinks in the forest with which we are all so familiar. A few battles, and some serious rewriting of history, later – Robin Hood writes the Magna Carta anyone? – and things come into focus nicely.

Russell Crowe turns in a competent display as Robin of the hood, although his accent darts back and forth across the Irish Sea quicker than a harlot’s drawers down the local alehouse – just ask Little John and the boys about that one. Suffice to say they were all a good deal merrier for their trip to Nottinghamshire. Cate Blanchett is excellent as the haughty Maid Marion, an iron maiden in more ways than one, while Oscar Isaac’s portrayal as the petulant and absurd King John is also enjoyable.

Increasing taxes to fund wars on foreign soil that the populace has no interest in is an age old tale, and it is fitting that such a scenario sets the backdrop for a story as enduring as this one. Some things never change, and it seems our obsession with the story of the do-gooding archer from Sherwood Forest is one of them. Well worth the admission fee this one.

Shane Kennedy

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Robin Hood
is released on 14th May 2010

Robin Hood – Official Website

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Body of Lies

Body of Lies
Body of Lies

DIR: Ridley Scott • WRI: William Monahan • PRO Donald De Line, Ridley Scott • DOP: Alexander Witt • ED: Pietro Scalia • DES: Arthur Max • CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani, Oscar Isaac, Simon McBurney

Body of Lies is about a CIA agent called Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is trying to catch a terrorist leader in Jordan, with the help of Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), the Chief of Intelligence there, and under the supervision of his boss in Washington, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe). The film is written by William Monahan (The Departed) and directed by Ridley Scott (who you’ve probably heard of).

It’s a good-looking film (inevitable with Ridley Scott directing), and the leads have a Front Page type of relationship, with Russell Crowe playing the Walter Burns to DiCaprio’s Hildy Johnson. The two actors have a good rapport, and their scenes together are pretty entertaining. Crowe is in America most of the time, and there’s much contrasting between his everyday life back home and the business he’s about. This may also be a statement about the complacency of the folks in Washington who can easily sanction death and destruction without having to think about it.

Which brings me to the fact that the film is about America’s conflicts in the Middle East, at least superficially. There’s also DiCaprio’s relationship with an Iranian nurse to show us the humanity of the people out there. It isn’t done in a way that’s too jarring, but you can’t help wondering what relationship the story has to reality, or even what the point is. Is the film saying anything in particular about war or about the Middle East or America? Would it make a difference if it didn’t deal with real conflicts?

It may be unfair to ask for more than action from a film like this. Plenty of Second World War movies were just capers, but a lot of those were propaganda films, which this film very much isn’t, and they were about a war that was easier to categorise in terms of Good and Bad. It’s hard not to wonder if the people making all these Iraq movies are trying to say something, or are merely trying to repeat the successes of movies about Vietnam. So far, there have been no Apocalypse Nows, Deer Hunters, or Full Metal Jackets, or if there have, they’ve gone unnoticed, since most of the Iraq movies have pretty much flopped.

This film really shares more with the Mission Impossible and Bourne movies than with the aforementioned Vietnam movies, which is not an entirely negative criticism. It’s a smart action/spy caper that would probably be more successful if it wasn’t mired in a political hot topic.

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