The Films of Paul Haggis
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In the Valley of Elah
The Next Three Days (November 15/10)
Based on the 2008 French film For Her, The Next Three Days casts Russell Crowe as John Brennan - a family man who begins planning an elaborate prison break after his wife (Elizabeth Banks' Lara) is sentenced to twenty years behind bars for murder. It's clear right from the outset that filmmaker Paul Haggis is simply not interested in exploiting the inherently electrifying nature of the movie's premise, as the writer/director has infused much of The Next Three Days with a deliberately-paced sensibility that translates into a watchable yet far-from-enthralling opening hour. (Haggis has, however, peppered this portion of the proceedings with a handful of engrossing sequences, including a one-scene cameo from Liam Neeson as an expert on prison escapes.) There's consequently little doubt that the film's first half generally boasts the feel of a well-acted, consistently low-key drama, with Crowe's expectedly stirring performance ensuring that the narrative's subdued tendencies never quite become as problematic as one might've feared (ie it's slow but never boring). The movie's sedate atmosphere changes considerably once Crowe's character sets his elaborate plan into motion, and it's hard to deny that the electrifying and exciting nature of certain segments within this stretch - ie the prison break itself - is heightened by the viewer's desire to see John's (incredibly implausible) plan succeed. And although the finale is just a touch more conventional than necessary, The Next Three Days is otherwise a solid piece of work that succeeds as both an introspective drama and a high-octane thriller.