Next Three Days, The (UK - BD RB)
Does Russell Crowe manage to warm Marcus to thrillers AND Paul Haggis?
After a night out at a restaurant Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) is convicted of murdering her boss. Believing his wife to be innocent, Lara's husband John (Russell Crowe) finds himself out of appeal options two years into her sentence and decides to go with option two: breaking her out of jail.
Generally I wouldn't say I was a fan of thrillers. That's not to say it's across the board; there are a good fair few I do like but out of the world of movie genres, thrillers tend to be the ones that piss me off the most and have a higher likelihood of taking a misstep and closing the door on my enjoyment. Someone will always do something stupid for the sake of a forced dramatic turn or someone will screw up the plan or take an unnecessary risk or do something inexcusably dumb and ruin the entire set up. So seeing the trailer for The Next Three Days a few months before its release and more so knowing unsubtle Crash director Paul Haggis was at the reigns didn't exactly make the movie register on my "to watch" list.
Sitting down to actually watch this review disc and I was initially scared that all my fears were becoming a reality. At the start there's a super heavy discussion between characters in a restaurant about bosses and how men shouldn't work for women and women shouldn't work for men. It felt like Crash, looked like Crash and was about as annoying as Crash. Thankfully once Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks left the restaurant, had some ‘quality time’ in their car and went home, only to have the police bust in and arrest Banks for murder the next morning, the Crash-esq "qualities" subsided and The Next Three Days actually become quite, dare I say it, compelling.
The mystery of Lara’s imprisonment was actually interesting and what was even more enjoyable was it wasn't about proving her innocence. This had obviously been done for the last two years off screen and here we find Crowe's distraught husband/father character, John, at wits end and with an appeal seemingly pointless. With his wife attempting suicide after finding this out and his life slowly falling apart, John takes action and it’s here that casting Russell Crowe makes the best sense.
I have to say I love Russell Crowe in movies manly with roles like The Insider and Romper Stomper rating high in my all-time favourites and even though he has a knack of picking movies with premises and trailers that do absolutely nothing for me ( Master & Commander, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, A Good Year...the list goes on) he always manages to deliver in the final product for me. Even though the movies are sometimes not quite as good as his involvement in them, I generally find his central performance interesting and believable and for me he really encapsulates one of the best "every-man to get behind" actors there is. Because of all this The Next Three Days works. I was behind ol’ Rusty from the get go and even with the hint that Lara was guilty, I was still backing John and understood the risks he was taking for his woman.
Another breath of fresh air was Elizabeth Banks' performance. Again she’s generally an actress I adore but really it's for her comedy roles as her dramatic turns sometimes feel lacking. Thankfully that’s not the case here at all. She really played this role well, countered the loving wife with the slowly losing her will to carry on imprisoned wife. She had a real bite in the bitter scenes and honestly I was pleasantly surprised Banks could do this sort of stuff so well.
I can’t really go much further without hitting spoiler territory but I will say that Haggis pulls off a solid thriller here. The drama is consistently building to a satisfying event, wrong turns are hinted at but never committed to, Crowe’s character really has a lot going on and it’s depicted well (I especially liked the “living in your own reality” angle) and the break out attempt ramps up this thriller to, well, a thrilling level, with a fantastic set piece with a near miss car accident that genuinely fell at exactly the right time to push even me to (almost) gasp before the tension eased down enough to set up the next steps for these characters. Phew!!
I won’t lie, it’s not all perfect. Haggis still unsubtly hammers home the reveal of the did she/didn’t she question towards the end, there's a few clunks of bad dialogue and there are one or two elements you have to let slide (there ain’t many thrillers that aren’t guilty of that one), but none of it was enough to break my enjoyment and for the entire 133 minutes I was entertained... possibly even thrilled in places.
Well to start with there’s a distinct difference in visuals between the day and night scenes. The day scenes are quite hazy in their sunlit brightness. Colours are slightly muted and there’s a thin layer of grain to the overall transfer. Cut to night time and it’s a whole different story. Gorgeous deep blacks really look great, colours glow (even if they do share the Crash bronze and green lighting in places) and really the image can be quite striking.
Going deeper, details and textures are good, especially with hair and stubble. Clothing looks great, especially colours in all of Crowe’s jacket changes in the final act and overall I’d say this one proved to be a balanced affair with some real stand out moments of HD goodness.
For the first half the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is near silent score-wise with low spoken dialogue but as the film builds so does the track. There’s a bar scene were Crowe heads outside with a few less savoury characters and the thumping bass through the walls sounds very realistic. Also when the score begins to trickle in more to raise the tension there’s a whole host of little nuisances that show up. Little clicks or knacks in the arrangement that feel like they are slowly coming from another room and really added loads to the overall effect of a scene and as the score builds and screeching cars and cops shouting enter the field the track feels full and very lively.
The commentary is with Haggis, his producer Michael Nozik and editor Jo Francis. The track is friendly but not all that exciting. The three tell us little bits about the cast, the shoot and the differences with the remake and they all sound like good friends as they tell us what’s happening on screen. All this makes it quite laid back and sort of dull if I’m honest.
The making of (18:31 HD) delves into the original French film Pour Elle (which I think is a much better title) and talks about how they expanded the idea from 88 minutes to 133 and how Haggis wanted to go darker. It also goes into the Pittsburgh location and of course the cast.
‘The Men of the Next Three Days’ (06:47 HD) is about the guys and has Russell telling us how he disagreed with everything Haggis said about the story and how that seemed like a good reason to say yes to the movie!
‘True Escapes for Love’ (07:38 HD) is a fluff piece for US TV giving us a few other real life stories of prison breaks with plenty of talk about Bonnie and Clyde.
Finally there’s ‘Cast Moments’ (02:25 HD) which is essentially a gag reel, fourteen deleted scenes and two extended scenes.
For someone who generally finds thrillers annoying rather than entertaining I have to say I liked The Next Three Days way more than I expected to (despite the terrible title). Thankfully Haggis didn’t make another Crash-esq preachy annoyance but instead went for a thoroughly solid drama, with some great thriller moments and great performances from the majority of the cast. All this and a satisfying payoff—for me I consider this a rare thing with thrillers, so in that regard I call this one a success. Does it make me want to watch more big name thrillers and rewatch Crash? No, I wouldn't go that far. It was good but it wasn't that good.
The disc has great A/V and okay features, so if you think you’ll enjoy Russell Crowe attempting to break Elizabeth Banks out of jail with the use of an iphone, a tennis ball with a hole in it and a Prius you can’t go too far wrong here.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 16th May 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Extras: Making of, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Extedned Scenes, Commentary
Easter Egg: No
Director: Paul Haggis
Cast: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks
Genre: Crime, Drama and Thriller
Length: 133 minutes
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