Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks star in this tightly paced, energetic and thrill-filled drama about a man who decides to break his wife – who may or may not have been wrongly convicted of murder – out of prison after all legal avenues have been exhausted.
Crowe is exceptionally good as the distressed, loyal and weary husband and Banks convinces as the wife struggling to cope with her imprisonment and loss of her family.
Paul Haggis’s direction keeps the tension bubbling along nicely and his screenplay, based on a 2007 French movie Pour Elle, deserves credit for taking the movie in a very different direction to the Erin Brockovich-style legal drama it initially looks to be.
Instead Haggis serves up a film about spousal devotion. Crowe’s character doesn’t believe his wife is guilty of the murder and, though at point she drops her claims of innocence, his love for her compels him to risk everything in an escape attempt.
So convincing is Crowe’s performance – banish any thoughts of his lamentable Robin Hood from your mind – that you won’t care either and will be rooting for the escape plan to work.
Though the escape itself feels a long time coming, when it does arrive it’s plausible, well directed and thoroughly absorbing with plenty of ‘edge of the seat’ moments.
It’s a pity then that the very final scene, which has all the hallmarks of a post-focus group addition, spoils the tension and tone of the movie by revealing whether or not the wife really did the dirty deed.
Never has a film been so undermined by its own end as is the case here, and that’s a genuine shame because, the final 2 minutes aside, this is one of the all-time great prison-break movies.
When you go see it – and if you love good movies you’ll want to see this one – be sure to close your ears and eyes when you sense the final scene coming. I promise you’ll miss nothing of consequence and will enjoy the film far more not knowing the truth.
The Next Three Days opens nationwide on January 5 2011.
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