Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Next Three Days (Rhoades

“Next Three Days” Breaks Out at Tropic
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

How far would you go to save someone you love from unjust imprisonment?

Well, John Brennan (the character played by Russell Crowe in “The Next Three Days”) would stop at nothing, even willing to break his wife out of prison when all else fails.

Accused of murder, Brennan’s wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) has been incarcerated for three years. After her final appeal is exhausted, she turns suicidal, moaning to her husband, “I don’t think I can last twenty years.”

“I promised you this will not be your life,” responds Brennan, a milquetoast English teacher in a small community college who has been trying desperately to hold the family together.

So he decides to break his wife out of prison. “We have no other choice,” he tells her.

Yes, despite all the upfront angst and courtroom drama, this is essentially a prison break movie. “The Next Three Days” can be found going over the wall at the Tropic Cinema.

A prison break requires careful timing, fast cars, and great danger. Not exactly Brennan’s thing. That’s why he consults an expert, an ex-con (a cameo by Liam Neeson) who has escaped from several prisons in his criminal past.

“Whatta you wanna know?” the ex-con growls.

“How you escaped when no one else could?” implores the frantic husband.

“No prison in the world is airtight,” comes the terse response. “Each one has a key. You just have to find it.”

Nonetheless, he agrees to tutor Brennan: “You have to have the entire plan already in place. And you have to ask yourself, can you kill a guard, leave your kid at a gas station? Because to do this thing, that’s what you have to become.”

The plan requires a gun (“Where do you put the bullets?” asks the awkward pupil), passports, money, clockwork timing. He has three days to pull it off. “From the time they make the call, the police are gonna have the center of the city sealed tight in fifteen minutes. Within thirty-five minutes they can have cops at every toll booth on the Interstate,” warns the ex-con. “They will shoot you on sight.”

Can Brennan pull it off? “You have to ask yourself if you can do it,” advises the ex-con. “And if you can’t, don’t start. You’ll just get someone killed.”

The rest of the movie depicts our reluctant hero executing a daring escape, his young son Luke (Ty Simpkins) in tow. His wife nervously following her husbands instructions. This leads to an exciting chase through the streets of Pittsburgh as police pursue the Brennan family.

Okay, let’s ignore the implausibility of the prison break – willing suspension of disbelief and all that. Accept that it’s a thrilling cat-and-mouse game designed to keep the audience of the edge of their seats. A popcorn movie.

Instead, let’s turn to the moral dilemmas inherent in this film. All the evidence points to Lara’s guilt, that she killed her boss. But her husband rages with a blind faith that she’s innocent. “She could never do something like that,” he insists, despite signs to the contrary.

Even though most of Brennan’s actions are wrong (read: illegal), the audience still sees him as a hero. But does righting an injustice excuse criminal acts? Does saving a loved one allow the possibility of killing an innocent bystander or policeman? Back to our original question: How far would you go to save someone you love from unjust imprisonment?

Two-time Oscar winner Paul Haggis (“Crash,” “In The Valley of Elah”) wrote, directed and produced “The Next Three Days.” However, it’s actually a remake of the 2007 French film “Pour Elle” (translation: “Anything for Her”), an underappreciated gem by Fred CavayĆ©.

Why did Academy Award-winner Russell Crowe sign on to do this film? “Because it’s a story about an ordinary man who has to take extraordinary action,” he says. “The overarching question is, would you on behalf of somebody that you love turn into a person in order to help her that she couldn’t love? To me that was a fascinating question.”

srhoades@aol.com
[from Solares Hill]

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