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The Next Three Days (2011)

This thing called “life” can throw us some hard curveballs. It tests us and in some situations, breaks us. The revolving idea of this asks how far a person would be willing to go to ensure that those you love aren’t ever hurt or unjustly treated. Would we work within the law or go to an extreme to have our family whole again? This film explores the latter idea in some of its most harsh – and unbelievable realities.

Happiness is what the Brennan’s suburban lifestyle is made of. Every morning, Lara takes a snapshot of her family as her husband smiles to appease his wife’s silly tradition. But then fate intervenes and Lara (Elizabeth Banks) is accused of murdering her boss. The case against her seems solid – she argued with her boss, was witnessed leaving the scene of the crime and her fingerprints were on the murder weapon. It’s enough for detectives to arrest her the following morning… and file charges against her. Still she claims innocence. It’s a claim her husband, John (Russell Crowe) never second guesses. With such an overwhelming case against her, the jury convicts her of murder. Three years later, John faithfully stands by his wife yet appeals are to no avail leaving him at his wit’s end. His final request for is denied which shatters Lara’s confidence. Her devastation leads to drastic measures and a confession to her husband that she did murder the woman. Can he merely walk away and move on with his life?

Doubt. It is such a small word but one with a lot of power. Even the smallest seed can bend people to go wild with worry, disbelief and difficult choices. If a movie has a good plot and first-class swelling of trepidation it can go a long way. In this case, there are both. Going into this, I really hadn’t done my usual homework on it, so there was nothing that encouraged me to rent it except that it was the latest action flick and each one in the genre seems to be making strides toward more awesome-ness (if possible). If it does have a larger failing, it isn’t plotted very well. Opening is a scene that doesn’t take place until later in the film and the movie suffers from being a tad over-long. It’d have been more satisfying for the planning to take forefront rather than the mundane existence of barely scraping by because of such emotional turmoil. The escape was well planned out and it wasn’t so much the problem, in fact it was maybe even slightly too drawn out, but nevertheless, the whole suspense of the end result is fabulous. Focus is also given to the couple’s young son (Ty Simpkins) whose struggles are wrenching – he’s a kid who feels peer pressure keenly and isn’t sure he should so readily admit to his mother’s existence as a result.                                                                                                                       

It has a good cast – including Liam Neeson (in a one-time scene), Olivia Wilde and its director/writer is no stranger to filmmaking having penned such movies as Quantum of Solace and the Academy-Award nominated Million Dollar Baby. You question all of the characters’ motives and the truth behind them. Even the arresting detective goes over and over his case, looking at new angles and even wanting to prove wrong everyone – including himself for seeing Lara as guilty. Banks has just a glint of sinister potential in her so as to make us wonder. On the one hand, everyone is likable, but it is a little difficult to fully “like” John.

As human beings, we can sympathize with his opportunity of a mere 72 hour plight but we cannot admire him for the selfish motivations behind them – the one who would be most affected by a botched escape would be his young son. He is warned about having to leave a child behind, and as an audience, the horror of that thought is felt; how could a parent consider such a thing? Do the ends justify the means? I don’t think so. Distraught over his wife’s injustices notwithstanding John’s primary was his son – Luke should have always been put first. It is really the emotional confusion that drives this story, necessary to any thriller; suspense takes its appropriate place. By the end, I found the movie a decent if not an impractical way to spend the evening. The script raises some impacting questions, but the length it goes too shouldn’t be thought morally “right.” Standing by loved ones is admirable, but in John’s situation there has to be a line that should not be crossed – putting his love into action wasn’t right in this scenario. One cannot doubt John’s love for his wife, but could the opposite be questioned for his son? 

(Parental review: there is one more intense gun fire exchange; two men are killed, another shoots a getaway car, plus a home is set ablaze. One man contemplates robbing a bank, and later thieves from a bunch of drug dealers. [He is beaten earlier and robbed.] Twice, a woman attempts suicide; the first we are not privy too, the second she attempts to throw herself from the car with an eighteen-wheeler barreling down on her. There is some sensual foreplay between a married couple; it is suggested they share a brief tryst in the car and a married woman tells another that she would have “had” her husband by now if she’d wanted. That same conversation includes an innuendo or two. [Lara cracks a joke about the no “conjugal” rule on visiting day.] Women wear low-cut blouses. One blurred but clear F-word [and there may be one other, too] is in place plus several abuses of deity. Common-place profanity is the normal for other inappropriate dialogue. The film is rated PG13.)
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  1. I saw this for the first time about a week ago and for what it is, it does it well -- it's a thriller through and through; if I were a fingernail chewer, I wouldn't have had any left by the end. In that regard, it's terrific. But OH MY GOSH, I wanted to slap his wife for her antics. JUST GET IN THE STUPID CAR AND STOP RISKING EVERYONE'S LIFE.

    1. From my memory, it lagged a few times during the "set up" of the plot, and in that, I wished it had been "better." However, yes, it was quite good! Most the time, I wanted to slap both of them! They needed to re-think their entire strategy. :D

    2. I agree that you should always think about how stuff will impact your kids, but... a marriage is about two people, not three. Husband/Wife come first. That doesn't mean busting her out of jail was the right thing to do, but I understand why he did it -- and if it was me, I'd hope my husband would do the same. So I don't know that I agree with you on that count. But yeah, the second half is intense. =)

    3. No problem! I don't mind at all, Charity; glad you shared your opinion. It's just in this scenario, I have a problem with John's desire to free his wife. I understand it but think that as the "only" parent left to raise his son, he should have thought it thought more thoroughly about the consequences.

      But then... there wouldn't have been a movie! Yikes, come to think of it, that would have been boring. ;)

    4. Heh, imagine the movie then -- John gives up midway through, and raises his kid somewhere alone. YAWN. =D

    5. That is one boring script. ;D

  2. Sounds like a good, intense movie! I can't imagine having a loved one ripped away from me and thrown into prison. Thanks for the review, Rissi.

    1. That is unfathomable! You've got that right, Gwendolyn.

      This was a bit "intense" but also didn't pace itself well so it's not as impacting until the climax.

  3. I don't think this is a movie I'm going to watch (I'm not a big action fan), but I could totally see Elizabeth Banks in such a type of role, she seems the right actress for it.

    1. Elizabeth plays this role great! She keeps the audience guessing the entire time.


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