Dodge the numerous plot holes and The Next Three Days is an enjoyable enough thriller. Concentrate on them, however, and the film really starts to unravel.
Lara and John are happily married and have a young son, Luke. When Lara is accused of murder, their whole world turns upside down. Trying to juggle looking after Luke and fighting for Lara’s appeal, John realises that he must take drastic action if he ever wants to see his wife free…
A remake of the French film Anything for Her, The Next Three Days eschews the facts of the case, preferring to concentrate on emotions. Thus, we see Lara struggling to maintain a relationship with Luke, and John under tremendous stress as his family relationships suffer under the strain.
There is no depiction of Lara’s court case, or any police interviews with her; the film jumps from her initial arrest to a number of years later. This works to keep the audience guessing over the innocence of Lara. There is no doubt that John is convinced of her innocence, but for a long period of the film that facts are not made clear. This is one of the most effective devices employed in The Next Three Days; it keeps the audience engaged for a large part of the film.
Sadly, there are several plot holes that make the end result less than satisfactory. Once the details of the case are revealed (either in flashback sequences or in expository dialogue), several issues arise regarding how Lara was convicted. Furthermore, John’s plans to help his wife rely heavily on luck. While there is some ingenuity, The Next Three Days lacks credibility.
There is a wholly negative portrayal of law enforcement in the film. Lara believes the police did not follow-up on a crucial aspect of her story, while the police are shown to be one step behind John. Given that he is a lecturer and a complete novice in any type of crime, he adeptly fools the officers attempting to track him down.
Paul Haggis directs the action sequences capably, injecting tension with the camera work and editing. John’s transition as the film progresses is convincing; his aborted attempt at testing his bump key at the elevator is highly effective, particularly in the reaction he has following the interview.
Russell Crowe gives an excellent performance as John. He is believable both in his relationship with his son and in his desire to help his wife at any cost. Elizabeth Banks also gives a great performance as Lara, effectively conveying her frustration and misery at the situation. Liam Neeson has a minuscule role, despite his billing, while Olivia Wilde is underused.
Although the performances are good and the film retains tension and urgency, the various points of contention detract from the overall enjoyment of The Next Three Days. Suspend disbelief significantly and the film works well enough.