Combustible Celluloid
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With: Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Daniel Stern, Michael Buie, Moran Atias, Remy Nozik, Jason Beghe, Aisha Hinds, Ty Simpkins, Leslie Merrill, Helen Carey, Brian Dennehy
Written by: Paul Haggis, Fred Cavayé
Directed by: Paul Haggis
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, drug material, language, some sexuality and thematic elements
Running Time: 122
Date: 11/09/2010

The Next Three Days (2010)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Paul Haggis has built his reputation on socio-political soapbox movies like Crash and In the Valley of Elah, so it's surprising that, once this movie finishes speaking about the female power dynamic and the broken justice system, it simply turns into a straight-ahead thriller packed with intricate details and gripping suspense.

Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) and her husband John (Russell Crowe) are out at dinner with friends, arguing over the difficulties of women working for other women. Lara and John make love in their car before returning home to relieve the babysitter. Unfortunately, Lara is suddenly arrested for the murder of her female boss; all evidence points to her and she is jailed for life, with no chance of parole. Refusing to give up, John begins to consider breaking her out of jail. He consults an expert (Liam Neeson) and hatches his plan, one meticulous step at a time. Unfortunately, time is running out, and if he can actually pull it off, there will be no turning back.

This mostly works, but Haggis is more a director of ideas than instinct, and he's simply not skilled at this kind of pure suspense. The movie is not tightly paced and often moves too slow or takes too long. The movie also has no idea what to do with John and Lara's son, Luke (Ty Simpkins), who gets shuttled around from place to place with no voice or opinion of his own; he's like a prop, and when he is in danger of being left behind, it doesn't feel like there's anything at stake. In short, the movie never quite balances thought and action, even though it does manage a few neat ideas and twists.

Best Buy Co, Inc.