Today: April 17, 2024
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Next Three Days

Oscar-winning mathematicians aside, Russell Crowe is predominantly
cast on screen in alpha male, macho roles. Robin Hood, Gladiator,
American Gangster, LA Confidential’s prickly Bud White and Romper
Stomper’s seething skinhead. But, as he has winningly done before, he
plays against type in Paul Haggis’ superb thriller The Next Three Days.

Crowe is John Brennan, a middle class, suburban school teacher pushed to the limits when his wife Laura, (Banks)
is sentenced to 20 years in jail for the murder of her boss. Forced to
raise their son on his own, he begins a fight to prove his wife’s
innocence, spending mountains of money on appeals that don’t work until
he is advised by his lawyer and friend to ‘look at the evidence.’ The
evidence points to her guilt but John refuses to believe this and sets
about putting together a plan to break her out of the prison, and life,
she has been injustly cast into.

As a thriller, The Next Three Days is excellent, as John
concocts his plan to free his incarcerated wife. Learning how to make
‘bump keys’ via tutorials on YouTube, and patrolling the streets and
bars of downtown Pittsburgh trying to buy a fake passport, he is a man
forced to take actions he would not ordinarily conceive, thrust into a
world of violence and criminality he has only witnessed before through
TV news. Mugged in his attempts to obtain fraudulent paper work – his
naivety seized upon by petty thieves – he opts to buy a gun from a store
only to ask the clerk, “right, now show me where the bullets go.”
Lecturing his class on the nature of reality, that it is but the life
that we build for ourselves, his goal is to construct one for him and
his family that is not shackled by bars, four walls and 24/7 lockdown,
and at any cost. It is a role in which Crowe excels; wounded, frightened
yet driven and unwavering in his determination, he plays John as a man
who has been forced into actions he would normally condemn, forcing him
to re-evaluate the justifications for them and for the behaviour he
undertakes.

Not as much an ‘issue’ pic as Haggis’ Oscar wining race drama Crash, The Next Three Days is not just a routine thriller either
though, far from it, and casts its eyes over the judicial system from
its just intent, through its manipulation, misappropriation and
metamorphosis under the pressures of a media-driven and opportunistic
society. It asks to what lengths we ourselves would go to, and should go
to, if put in the same situation, and is a better, more powerful and more affecting film because
of it. Opening with a spicy dinner table scene as John and Laura
discuss gender politics in the work place with another couple, whether a
man or woman works better under a boss of the same gender, the extent
to which a skirt length can be used to further someone’s career or
undermine their integrity. The film is shot through too with post 9/11
resonance as John is told, by a dishevelled and infamous frequent prison
escapee Damon, played by Liam Neeson in an extended cameo, that since
the attack on the World Trade Centre, Homeland Security can lock down a
major city in 15 minutes, Washington DC itself in ten, making escape
once the alarm has been raised a time sensitive issue indeed.

With excellent performances, from Crowe and Banks especially,
The Next Three Days is an intelligent thriller, and Haggis’ decision to
keep the audience in the dark as to Laura’s innocence or guilt until its
latter stages, merely enhances the questions that it poses, and raises
it above the likes of last year’s similarly themed yet decidedly
trashier Law Abiding Citizen. It’s the kind of film Hollywood
used to make before its current preoccupation with sequels and
superheroes – it should perhaps come as little surprise then that it is
in fact an adaptation of the 2007 French film Pour Elle – and is the sort of film you can help but wish they would make more often.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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