The Next Three Days sees Russell Crow (Gladiator) as John Brennan, a teacher at a community college in Pittsburgh. One morning the police burst into the Brennan’s home, arresting John’s wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks, Role Models) and leaving John with his three year old son Luke. Lara is charged with the murder of her boss. All of the evidence seems stacked against her, she has motive, a witness placed her at the scene, her fingerprints were on the murder weapon and the victim’s blood is on her coat. However, John is sure his wife is innocent and he will do anything to rescue her from the supposedly false incarceration.
Skip to three years later, Luke is having trouble at school and will no longer make any contact with his mother during their usual prison visits. John has tried every angle possible to free his wife, but every appeal has failed, simply costing the family more money. Lara attempts suicide and is moved to the hospital to recover. This is when John decides that there is only one option left, to spring Lara from prison. Over the next three months John plans out the perfect escape. He contacts a former prisoner who has escaped from prison several times, and he keeps visiting the prison to assess the possible escape routes. Then suddenly he finds out that Lara is being moved to another prison and he only has three days.
Director Paul Haggis (director of Crash, writer of Million Dollar Baby) handles the build up, climax and dénouement with the same skill he applies to all of his films. The Next Three Days is not your usual jailbreak thriller, it’s a more unique film which develops the plot in a different method. Crowe plays the average joe turned sudden action hero well, a character perhaps overplayed in films, but it is done well here. We see some forms of transformation as John realizes that escape is the only option for his wife. When the deadline changes to only three days, John must find a way to get money and supplies quickly. This even means buying a gun and stealing from a drug dealer. This change in the character shows how much John would be willing to do for his family.
The Next Three Days isn’t really an action movie, it’s more about the build up, planning and execution of a getaway. More time is spent seeing John test his ideas or meet with shady characters to receive false passports than is spent in car chases or gunfights. There are some of these action-oriented scenes, which is good, but the movie doesn’t focus on them too much. I will say that the getaway plan was well thought out by Paul Haggis, who also wrote the film. The Next Three Days is slightly more realistic than most escape thrillers and is a really enjoyable movie.