Movie review: The Next Three Days

The Next Three Days, a remake of a French film, has a strong cast but the plot is spelled out too obviously

Russell Crowe plays John Brennan, left, and Daniel Stern is Meyer Fisk in The Next Three Days. The film centres on a man trying to get his wife out of prison.
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The Next Three Days
Director: Paul Haggis
Starring: Russell Crowe, Eizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde

The Next Three Days is a remake of the French film Pour Elle. The director Paul Haggis has chosen to go down the route of remaking a film that most people probably haven't seen and, in doing so, avoid comparisons with the original. Normally that would be a smart idea, but in this case it's actually a shame as Haggis does a good job of paying homage to the French film, which starred Vincent Lindon as a high-school teacher hell-bent on breaking his wrongly accused wife (Diane Kruger) out of jail. Haggis takes this premise and then throws in a curious curve ball that at times makes this a better film than the original: what if the wife is actually guilty of the crime?

Haggis also has the considerable talents of Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks as the husband and wife John and Laura Brennan. Crowe delivers his best performance for a number of years as the man, who despite all the evidence, refuses to believe that his wife killed her boss in a fit of rage. Haggis reinforces the the possibility that his wife might be guilty using flashbacks. This new twist makes the film all the more interesting, not least when the uncompromising and stubborn character Crowe has created refuses to listen to any suggestion of his wife's guilt, almost in an effort to make life bearable for himself and their six-year-old son.

Banks is criminally underused as Haggis concentrates on following John through a series of increasingly preposterous situations.

He starts off teaching Don Quixote to his class, and with this Haggis immediately stakes his claim that what we see on screen is not necessarily the truth. He has John ask: "What if we exist in a reality of our own making." It's too blunt and to the point, but that's the trouble with all of Haggis's films - the themes, characters and situations are always too ploddingly spelled out. It all starts off well. There is a nice scene in the park where John tries to explain the situation as best he can to a fellow parent (Olivia Wilde) at his son's school. Then as John realises that legal means have no hope of saving his wife, he begins planning an escape.

The trouble is that Haggis doesn't know when he has gone too far, and in the second section titled The Next Three Months, the film moves into preposterous territory.

This could have been forgiven, but Haggis tries too hard to make a grandstand finish and the incorporation of John's parents, played by Brian Dennehy and Helen Carey, is almost an admission of the film's inherent ridiculousness. At times this is a robust prison-break thriller with a moral twist, but Haggis doesn't hold his nerve enough to deliver a film that completely changes the ethos of the original.

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