Directed by: Paul Haggis
Written by:Paul Haggis
Starring: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Ty Simpkins, Brian Dennehy, Olivia Wilde
Released: February 3, 2011
Grade: B+

I know that not everyone is a fan but I really like Russell Crowe as an actor.  He’s got a knack for picking great scripts and he can change his look and his personality to suit any character.  I admit he’s made a few bad films (like any actor) but his resume would make most actors very jealous.  The guy is good.

Crowe has found himself another quality script with The Next Three Days.  Academy Award winning writer Paul Haggis (Crash, In The Valley Of Elah) has adapted it from a 2007 French film called Anything For Her.  I haven’t seen the original myself but it seems to be part a growing trend in Hollywood that is seeing notable directors remake foreign language films for English speaking audiences.  Examples which spring to mind include The Departed (Martin Scorsese), The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher) and Let Me In (Matt Reeves).

The Next Three Days centres on a simple college teacher named John Brennan (Crowe).  Three years ago, his life was torn apart after his wife (Banks) was found guilty of killing her boss.  Despite pleading not guilty, the evidence was overwhelming.  She was sentenced to more than 20 years in jail.

John has tried hard to raise their young son on his own but things have been getting tough.  It gets even worse when he learns his wife tried to commit suicide whilst behind bars.  He’s at a breaking point… but the solution he comes up with to his problem might surprise you.  He starts putting together a plan to break his wife out of prison.

There are a few moments which seem a little too neat but on the whole, this is a tense thriller that doesn’t always choose the well-trodden path.  For starters, John isn’t the gutsy, brave hero that we often see in action-thrillers.  There’s one scene where he almost gets caught and the shock leaves him throwing up on the pavement.  He’s an intelligent guy but you’ll quickly get the sense that he’s in way over his head.

Also impressive is the way in which Haggis has captured the world around John and his activities.  We follow his parents who are concerned for his well-being.  We also follow the police who are investigating his suspicious activity.  There isn’t much time to develop these supporting players but Haggis uses them effectively to help build the tension.

The film could have used a little trimming (I notice the original is almost 30 minutes shorter) but The Next Three Days is definitely a film worth seeing at some point in the next three days.