Saturday, 6 April 2013

The Next Three Days, 2010

For links to more overlooked films and television this Tuesday, check out Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom.

It’s a coincidence that this post about Russell Crowe’s The Next Three Days (2010) coincides with his 49th birthday tomorrow, April 7. It was one of many films I watched on television during my recent leave of absence from blogging. I had never heard of this movie before and when I saw it, on STAR Movies last month, the New Zealand-born actor climbed still higher in my esteem. I’d rate his role as John Brennan, the distraught husband of Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) who is arrested and convicted for the murder of her boss, as one of his best. This is a relative term for one whose performance never fails to captivate the viewer.

Like most actors Russell Crowe has a trademark screen persona: he is niggardly with words, he has a quiet intensity about him, and he is awkward. He is no different in The Next Three Days made by Canadian director Paul Haggis (of Crash, Million Dollar Baby, and Casino Royale fame).

In this film, Crowe’s character, John Brennan, is a family man who loves his career wife Lara and their little son Luke. Everything is fine until one morning when the police swoop down on their happy home and whisk Lara away. She is charged with killing her boss and is sentenced to near life imprisonment in Alleghaney County jail in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The evidence against her is clinching or so we are told. John and Lara await the verdict on the appeal even as their lawyer tells them that there is no hope.

Over the next three years, John raises their son, with the help of his father George Brennan (played by the ageing Brian Dennehy) and mother Grace Brennan (Helen Carey), and teaches English at a local college. Between his personal and professional obligations, John never misses a chance to visit his wife in jail and tell her all about their growing son.

As the months pass into years, emotions run high, tempers flare up, and a depressed Lara attempts suicide. In one poignant moment, Lara, who can’t accept her fate, tells John what if she really did kill her boss. John stares at her in disbelief. On his next visit, he tells her that he knows she didn’t murder the woman and nothing she says will ever make him feel otherwise and vows to get her out.

A large stretch of the film has John planning Lara’s escape from the airtight prison. But, before he carries out his elaborate, and often reckless, scheme, he seeks guidance from Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson), an ex-convict who tells him what he stands to lose…should he, god forbid, fail.

“But before you do anything, you have to ask yourself if you can do it. Can you forget about ever seeing your parents again? Can you kill a guard? Leave your kid at a gas station? Push some nice old lady to the ground just because she gets between you and the door? Because to do this thing, that's who you have to become. And if you can't, don't start, 'cause you'll just get someone killed.”

The Next Three Days, an allusion to the last three days before Lara Brennan is transported to another prison hundreds of miles away, is Russell Crowe’s film all the way. No other actor, not Elizabeth Banks, not Brian Dennehy, nor anybody else, matter in this extraordinary film. You think you know what the end is going to be like and yet you are not quite sure. Not when John Brennan buys a gun for the first time in his life and says, “Show me where the bullets go.”

Watch it.

16 comments:

  1. Prashant, so glad to have you back. And this one seems like a winner all the way.

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    1. Hi Neer, it's good to be back, well almost, as I still have to get into the groove. This film is definitely a winner, tightly scripted and gripping.

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  2. I saw this and thought it was pretty good. Some nice twists and turns.

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    1. Charles, it is, indeed, pretty good. It's one of those "Will he? Won't he?" kind of films that keeps you glued till the end.

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  3. Prashant, it was good to see this post. I have missed your posts.

    Coincidentally, we have this movie on DVD and haven't watched it yet. You make it sound very exciting. I get very tense watching action thrillers, but I usually enjoy them in the end.

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    1. Thank you, Tracy. While I saw some films, I read very little, so I have a lot of ground to cover as far as books go. This film is not an action-thriller as you might imagine: there is no blood shedding, only lots of suspense and, as Charles rightly says, with "twists and turns." Let me know what you think of it.

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  4. Prashant: Welcome back!

    I have become tired of American action thrillers where the ground can barely be seen for bodies. Is this film awash in blood?

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    1. Thank you, Bill. THE NEXT THREE DAYS is not the stereotypical American action-thriller with blood, gore, and gut. The action in this thriller is restricted to Russell's Crowe single-minded determination to get his wife out of jail and start life all over again. What makes this film gripping is the way his character goes about it.

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  5. Welcome back Prashant - I remember quite liking this movie but wasn't very convinced by the ending which seemed quite open ended. I thought Crowe's scenes with Brian Dennehy at the end were especially good though - vert bitter sweet.

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    1. Thank you, Sergio. I had two bizarre endings in mind neither of which came true. It could have swung any which way. I agree, the scene between Dennehy and Crowe is touching but I deliberately left out key elements of the film so as not to spoil it for those who might not have seen it. All in all, I found the film entertaining and money's worth, so to speak, having watched it at home, sans popcorn and coke and the cost of a ticket.

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  6. After quite a long time avoiding films like this, I've been watching more of them lately and enjoying them. I just put this one in the netflix queue. I don't think I knew of it before I read your review. Thanks.

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    1. You're welcome, Ron. I didn't know Crowe had made this film either until I found it on cable television and I admit it took me by complete surprise. I mean it's just a three-year old film and with Crowe in it too.

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  7. It's not a film I've seen but I like the sound of it. I'm a sucker for American films. Maybe when the A to Z blog challenge finishes, I'll look it up.

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    1. Rebecca, thanks for visiting. I'm a sucker for American films too and I'm partial to action-thrillers. This one is a thriller all the way but not in the way most would think it. Definitely an edge-of-the-seat movie.

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  8. I haven't seen this either, Prashant. At least, not yet. I discovered that it's on my Netflix queue though. Your review really makes me want to watch it. I've seen a couple of thrillers lately, one good one I should really write about...

    My favorite Russell Crowe performance is in MASTER AND COMMANDER. LOVE that film!

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    1. Yvette, I hope you watch this film because I know you're going to like it. This one is a quiet thriller. MASTER AND COMMANDER is shown on Indian cable though I miss it every time they do. But I'll definitely see it.

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