Sunday, January 15, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Next Three Days (2010) ***

PG-13, 122 min.
Director: Paul Haggis
Writers: Paul Haggis, Fred Cavayé (original French screenplay “Pour elle”), Guillaume Lemans (screenplay “Pour elle”)
Starring: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Ty Simpkins, Olivia Wilde, Jason Behge, Aisha Hinds, Brian Denehey, Helen Carey, Lennie James, Allan Steele, Liam Neeson

I saw the trailers for “The Next Three Days” before I learned any of its production details. When I learned that acclaimed writer/director Paul Haggis (“Million Dollar Baby”, “Crash”) had made a thriller about a man who breaks his wife out of jail because she is innocent of a murder for which she’s been sentenced to life imprisonment, I was shocked. This sounded more like Luc Besson material than that of the thoughtful filmmaker behind “In the Valley of Elah”. When you consider that Haggis’s credits also include the screenplays for the last two James Bond installments and the creation of television’s “Walker, Texas Ranger”, it makes a little more sense.

It also makes sense then that “The Next Three Days” is not your typical no brainer actioner. It really contemplates the decisions made by the characters in this particular situation. It doesn’t just jump right to the action either. Like any good prison break movie, it spends most of its running time building up to the escape. The husband exhausts his options before he even begins to contemplate springing his wife. The breakout has an implacable logic to it. I liked how the husband’s actions are completely isolated—as they must be in order to pull off what he’s doing.

Considering the plot, I felt there really is no way this story can have a happy ending and still be good. I think Haggis does cheat a bit with the ending. Not to get the ending he wants; but to add just a little extra tension to the mix. Any deviation from the husband’s plan should spell disaster, but it’s Hollywood’s way to always try to squeeze just a little extra juice out of a fruit. Luckily, this one isn’t a lemon.

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