Watching the trailers for this film, I was sure it would be a hit. Then, it came and went without much fuss, and I didn't catch it till it showed up in our $1.50 theater. To my pleasant surprise, it is a strong film, with a good plot and some great acting. Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, and Olivia Wilde more than make up for Liam Neeson's laughably short cameo--laughable, since his name got a top billing.
"The Next Three Days" revolves around the murder indictment of John Brennan's (Crowe's) wife, played by Banks. All evidence points to her guilt in the death of her female boss, and she gets put away in the county jail, set in the middle of Pittsburgh. The Steel City is a great setting for a film. Director Paul Haggis uses it nicely, making the numerous bridges a part of the film's plot when Brennan, a normally meek-mannered community-college teacher, decides to help get his wife out of prison. Meanwhile, his wife is not fully on-board with his plans, and his son is still grieving the absence of his mother.
In the theater, audience members gasped at a few of the surprises--one of which was psychologically believable, but still felt like a bait-and-switch tactic. The audience also gasped at one or two scenes that did not play out in the typical Americanized cinema fashion. Crowe's character is not the slick, former spy, superhero that we saw in Liam Neeson's "Taken." Instead, he uses his brain to make his plans, and when brawn comes into the picture he tends to bumble things. The audience seemed to want him to kick butt.
Personally, I was thankful for an intelligent thriller that built slowly around characters and plot, unfolded logically but in unique ways, and ended with some emotional satisfaction. But this satisfaction does not come in the typical cinematic last-minute wrap-up, in which everyone gets their due and the good guys lay all their emotions on the table for us understand. There are some understated moments that leave us somewhat unsettled, even as things are tied together. Like Haggis's other films, this is not a paint-by-numbers genre flick. I, for one, appreciated that.