With a free preview ticket clutched in my gloved hand, I risked icy roads and wayward drivers to take an early peek at The Next Three Days yesterday. This is another example of a film that’s been out in the US for weeks – actually it’s been out in Kazakhstan for weeks – and yet still the UK must wait until 7 January. So, despite my Russell Crowe issues, somewhat alleviated by my unexpectedly positive response to Robin Hood, I was pleased to see the film early. I still can’t remember the title correctly, though. The Next Three Days as a collection of words seems to fall into that section of my memory that cannot cope with sentences and every time I think of this film I have another name for it. But that’s not Russell’s fault.
The thriller asks us to think what we would do if the wife or husband we loved were ripped from us one day and thrown into prison for twenty plus years for murder. And the evidence is good. Do you wait for their release? Do you entertain hopes of new evidence and justice? Or do you grab hold of your own reality and plan an escape? That is the path that John Brennan (Crowe) takes when his beautiful wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) is arrested for the murder of her boss, with whom she was seen arguing the day before. And it takes an immense amount of planning, including an intense consultation with a seasoned escapee played by Liam Neeson.
The film stresses that Brennan is an ordinary man, the type who has to ask when he buys a gun where the bullets go. As the stakes get higher, Brennan becomes more desperate, while the young son who now refuses to kiss his mother puts up with it all, with everything around him sold to pay for his father’s grand plan. Not everything goes according to plan and some of the mistakes are as intense and thrilling as the successes.
This isn’t a film of black and white. The police whose job it is to catch the escaped, aren’t featureless or inhuman, and Lara isn’t a simple case of the innocent convicted. Despite all the dangers and the doubts, John Brennan stays true to his purpose and constructs the most elaborate scheme, which covers the walls of his house in photos, maps and tips. The 15 minute rule and the 35 minute rule.
The Next Three Days is an intense film. Arguably it is a film that will give you a headache. I’d also argue that it’s about 20 minutes too long because how much of this tension can one take? John Brennan watches himself taken to the depths of desperation, with a wife he is divided from, and inevitably that means he commits actions that horrify both us and him. This is not an easy film to watch and elements of it are extremely frustrating, fingernails on blackboards kind of frustrating. But you need to see it through, you need to see how it ends.
It was a very pleasant surprise to see Brian Dennehy as Brennan’s father. Trudie Styler was also unexpected. Now all I need to do is remember the name of the film.