Film Review: Third Person

Third Person

Paul Haggis’ ensemble drama Third Person displays shades of 2004’s Crash. The film is mostly engaging viewers, if not wholly satisfying.

Michael is holed up in a Paris hotel trying to finish his latest book when his lover comes to visit. American businessman Scott wanders into a bar in Italy where he meets a beautiful but stressed young woman. Meanwhile in New York, a former soap actress hopes to win back custody of her young child…

Third Person follows the blueprint of Crash with its seemingly separate narrative strands. Writer-director Paul Haggis’ latest film shows more poetic licence with entwining them, however. Initially, there is enough in these individual strands to capture the viewer’s attention. Little is revealed about the main characters to begin with, allowing their stories to gently unfold.

Some of what occurs in Third Person is predictable. However, this is not the film’s main problem. Third Person seems to play with themes, but does not have a lot of coherency in terms of narrative. Whilst there is a particular theme that connects the stories, this is rather loose. What is presented is shells of narrative strands, without a satisfying group of stories. The later connection of these strands appears ill-thought out. If Haggis wish to play with elements in a less rigid context, these themes or husks of story needed to be captivating. As it stands, they hold some merit, although not enough to justify the run time.

Some of the cinematography in Third Person is beautiful in a polished way. The score is a good accompaniment. Performances from the ensemble cast are good overall. Olivia Wilde stands out in particular, whilst Mila Kunis, Liam Neeson, and Kim Basinger in a small role, are decent.

Despite a stellar cast, Third Person ultimately disappoints due to a lack of strong direction in narrative terms.

Film Review: The Next Three Days

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.