Readers of this blog know that I write a lot here about The New Hollywood’s abandonment of audiences over 30; that is, those of us in Acts 2 and 3 of life. Those of us who do not lose much sleep looking forward to the next Transformers movie are basically on our own at the movies from January through September. Sure, every once in a while, a character-based, emotionally involving film that is grounded in humanity rather than technology will escape, uh, be released by The New Hollywood during those months, but such films are few and far between. One of the unfortunate consequences of this let’s-get-teenagers-and twenty-somethings-into-theaters-and-everyone-else-be-damned strategy is that the October through December period then gets log jammed with films for us second and third “acters.” As in all log jams, then, some wonderful films get rolled beneath the surface and disappear without much fanfare or notice.
As a consequence of this unfortunate chain of events, I’m going to do occasional blogs on such films when they become available on pay-per-view and/or DVD so these wonderful, worthwhile films can rise to the surface downstream after they have escaped the logjam upstream.
The Next 3 Days is a perfect example of such a film. Released in November, 2010, it almost immediately got lost in the deluge of adult-oriented films and rather quickly disappeared. The film deserved a much, much better fate.
The Next 3 Days stars Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks and was written and directed by the immensely talented Paul Haggis who, in 2006, became the first screenwriter to write two Best Film Oscar winners back-to-back. He wrote the character-based and moving Million Dollar Baby that was directed by Clint Eastwood who won a Directing Oscar for the film, which also garnered acting Oscars for Hillary Swank and Morgan Freeman, and the Best Picture Oscar as well. Mr. Haggis also wrote and directed Crash, for which he won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.
That’s quite a resume and The Next 3 Days continues Mr. Haggis’ legacy of writing about fascinating people who get caught up in real-life dramas that test the very essence of their character and souls.
In the film, Mr. Crowe plays a school teacher whose wife (Ms. Banks) is suddenly arrested for a murder that he knows in his heart that she did not commit. The circumstantial evidence against her is so overwhelming, however, that she is convicted and sent to jail. When her appeals run out, she attempts suicide rather than face decades in prison. It is at that point that Mr. Crowe’s character decides his only option is to find a way to break her out of jail and escape the country with his wife and young son.
Of course, as a school teacher, he knows nothing of the moves he must make to carry out his plan. Much of the film transpires as he leaves his safe life and crosses over to a darker side of life where he must learn how to literally plan and then execute a jail break.
The Next 3 Days is at its heart a pulse-pounding thriller, to be sure, but it is also a surprisingly passionate, deeply felt, and heart-wrenching love story about a man who is willing to risk everything to save the woman he loves from a fate that he knows she doesn’t deserve. Of course we, as the audience, are kept guessing about the wife’s innocence and I certainly won’t spoil that revelation here.
As with Mr. Haggis’s other noteworthy films, The Next 3 Days presents the viewer with a deeply ambiguous and morally conflicting dilemma. As the film unfolds, we see a man who is unquestionably breaking the law in multiple ways and in fact putting innocent people in harm’s way. Can he justify that? Can we justify rooting for him and his wife during all this? What if she’s really guilty of the crime? What about the rule of law itself? If we break those rules, what separates us from anarchy and vigilante justice?
All those questions, and more, are addressed in The Next 3 Days as we ourselves contemplate the moral choices and internal conflicts that make us look deep within ourselves at our own moral compass.
For all those reasons, and many more, I highly recommend The Next 3 Days as a terrific pay-per-view or DVD rental…….even more so during this time of year when the multiplex is offering us Red Riding Hood and Battle: L.A.