For some reason the title of this film stuck in my head as 3 Days Later, so it was with surprise that I found it was not a prequel to the Danny Boyle zombie horror. The Next Three Days is another offering from Paul Haggis, the man who brought Crash to the Oscars back in 2005 (a film reviewed as “Yes, racism, very good. But too polished to be truly affecting” by a very young Cinemafool).
Haggis is better known for his writing, sitting behind Million Dollar Baby and the two Bond re-brands, and given the weighty nature of his portfolio it seems that Three Days is his version of a mini-break. Everyman Russell Crowe has the perfect family – hot wife with a top career and tiny big-eyed child who generally keeps quiet. Perfect. But when wifey (Elizabeth Banks) gets arrested for murder and sent to jail indefinitely, poor old Russell’s world is turned upside down. And, as all beardy college teachers would do, he decides to break his wife out of jail.
Now, this has the potential to be utter faecal matter. Crowe’s character has none of the pre-requisite skills for such an endeavour. So his transformation into jail-breaking superman could stink of, well, poo. But Haggis handles it smartly. Firstly by pumping up the pace to such a degree, you barely get chance to say “hang on…?” Secondly by casting Crowe, whose acting chops lend weight to his character’s emotional stew making him appear human, not a shallow action cut-out. Thirdly, though Haggis bends reality he still clings to it with amusing persistence. How does Crowe learn the majority of his anti-jail skills? Youtube and google of course. A neat trick would have been to have him sit down and watch the first series of Prison Break, but maybe they didn’t have the rights…
Anyway, the pumped pace makes for an exhilarating film, with Crowe building a character you can genuinely care about and Haggis sticking him in situations that you can almost, sort of, believe. Plus he does hi-jinks while driving a Prius, which is always fun to watch. There’s a slight lag mid-way through when clichéd detectives are wheeled out, and the lack of time spent with imprisoned wifey means her no doubt harrowing experience – way worse than hubby out in the real world in his comfy house – is inconsequential as she becomes just a woman waiting to be rescued.
You can’t help but wish for a braver ending to give the film a more dramatic punch, but overall The Next Three Days is a fun and thrilling journey that doesn’t make you roll your eyes. Granted, if you had time to stop and really think about the plot it would no doubt turn out to be utterly unbelievable nonsense. But hats off to Haggis for burying that point in exciting chases. Three Days makes for an entertaining watch, and so gets the recommended CF0.