Wednesday 1 December 2010

Review: The Next Three Days

Year: 2010
Director: Paul Haggis
Screenplay: Paul Haggis
Starring: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks

Synopsis is here

I have not seen Anything for her (French original of this U.S Remake), however a glimpse of it's running time and the two reviews I quickly read from two national papers reveal more than they suspect. The 96 minute feature is considered by Phillip French (Observer) to be:
"The movie invites the audience to empathise with a decent man driven by despair into dangerous criminal activities and we're on his side from start to finish."
Tim Robey of The Telegraph states:
"The dangers of being out of your depth in criminal dealings give Fred CavayƩ's film plenty of pulse and urgency"
So with this knowledge in mind I find it difficult to figure out what was so necessary in the extra 26 minutes that reside within this movie. However, with the films intricate plotting being so incredibly neat (far too neat), I'm guessing the added plotting is to ensure that everything is covered and no questions can be asked. In a thriller like this, such hand holding is a weakness. We know so much that risk is taken from us. Everything is perfect, too perfect. We're wrapped the situation up and have already got our coats on for the car. I may be very wrong, but at no point throughout the The Next Three Days did I find myself feel the stake rise above boiling point. It's all far too controlled.

But of course I could feel that. From what I've seen, Paul Haggis as a director doesn't seem to be one to rock the boat. Crash did as much as possible to open and shut cans before a worm even saw a light of day. In casting Russell Crowe, Haggis makes what could be considered quite a large error to some. Not because Crowe is a bad actor (I'm a fan) but because he's safe hands. At what point do you feel any trouble when your wrapped up tight in the hands of Maximus Decimus Meridius?

Crowe is a great actor to show a determined man. From Gladiator to Proof of Life, to L.A Confidential and even in this; Crowe is brilliant at showing a man whose willing to do anything for his cause. The problem however is this performance is lopsided. We're treated by lots of Maximus from a character who is supposed be a vulnerable English teacher. Crowe channels much of his strongest roles into this character but forgets that we are meant to be watching someone who is a reluctant hero. Once that steely purpose begins to burn in his eyes, we know that everything is going to be fine. Trouble is that fire was started far too early on.

Knowing that Crowe isn't going let that burden bother any of us also hinders Elizabeth Banks role (it doesn't help that she still looks too good to be in prison) as all her performance is shoved to the latter half of the movie. This is also is a plot issue, however once Crowe's John has become an Internet Macgyver (thanks youtube) there isn't too much for her to do. This is a shame as one pivotal revelation (or red herring) shows her ability to switch emotions naturally with ease.

Lack of conviction aside, there's some well directed moments within the movie that hold interest. Haggis' latter third runs at such a frantic pace that a bravura car sequence leaves one a little breathless and makes you wonder why Haggis felt the need to puncture the scene with such an unfortunate broad moment of humor. Not that The Next Three Days has to be that somber as Haggis' dialogue has enough wit early on to provide an above average lead in during the films earlier stages.

The Next Three Days is competent in it's creation and will be a passable diversion to many. However there may be other people looking for a thriller for a little more bite. This may not be the feature for them.