John (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Elizabeth Banks) Brennen are the very picture of a happy family. They gaze into each other's eyes lovingly. They have chemistry, that's for sure. They just can't stay off of one another. They seem to have the perfect, idyllic suburban life. One kid. Good jobs. It's all a budding young couple could ever ask for. Then in one fell swoop everything they know and love is shattered. The police break into their house and arrest Lara for murdering her boss.
We're shown flashbacks of what happened, but the movie conveniently leaves out vital information to mislead us. It's the same tactic that's used to build false suspense in movies when we'll see characters crouched inside a house waiting, and then a shot of their pursuer opening the door to the house, only to then realize that they're in the completely wrong place. It's annoying when movies intentionally mislead their viewers into thinking one thing when the filmmakers knew the answer all along.
The question is, did Lara really kill her boss? All the evidence points to the fact that yes she did. So, she's carted off to jail and prepares to spend the rest of her life in prison. John struggles to visit her day after day as the years tick by. Then he gets a brilliant idea, he's going to break her out.
John meets up with a guy, played by Liam Neeson, who's broken out of prison numerous times. He gathers some cursory information showing that it's possible to break out of a prison, then he sets to work creating an elaborate scenario in which he'll hopefully be able to free his wife.
The most though-provoking aspects of the story are first, you don't know, if she actually did commit the crime. What if she did kill that woman? Then John's plan takes on a completely different context. There's also the dichotomy of who John is and what he must become. He's an innocent college professor who must become a criminal mastermind. Is he willing to hurt people to achieve his goal? Is he willing to kill?
Director Paul Haggis ('Crash') skirts over these issues like they're secondary to the action. A smarter movie would be about these characters and not just about The Plan. Sure John changes, but just so we know that he's remained a "good guy," only "bad" people are hurt. Does that sound like a fair solution?
Action-wise, 'The Next Three Days' held my attention. It's genuinely nerve-wracking in a few parts, but its bloated 133 minute runtime is way too long for a genre film like this. Crow and Banks are superb in their parts, but their talents feel a little wasted here as the movie focuses too much on the planning, and execution of the plan, rather than on what's happening inside these characters' heads.
Haggis is a talented director, but he just seems to be going through the motions here. Everything is wrapped up far too nicely. Cops work, when they have to, at blinding speed, in order to figure out what's happening just so we can have intense chase scenes. Finally, when all is said and done Haggis creates the biggest blunder of all and tells us exactly what happened that fateful night. Why not leave it up to our imaginations? It's needless catharsis.
'The Next Three Days' bursts onto Blu-ray with a very solid 1080p AVC-encoded image. Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ration, 'The Next Three Days' Blu-ray release is a great looking action release.
Much of the movie takes place in low-light or no light scenes. Blacks are where the transfer really shines, creating sensible depth and detail. Blacks are never crushing and instead offer much needed dimensionality to darker scenes. Daytime scenes are nicely rendered too as the outdoors greenery of Pittsburgh is rich and lush.
Aerial shots of the city look great. As buildings pass below I didn't spot any aliasing that would otherwise mar the presentation. Softness does persist during the scenes where John visits Lara in prison, but it isn't anything to be too concerned about. As a matter of fact, much of the movie is filled with some striking fine detail, from the scar on Neeson's face, to the intricate brickwork of the numerous building facades.
Lionsgate's 7.1 DTS-HD lossless Master Audio track is a welcome surprise. Anytime we get 7.1 mix I get rather giddy. Here the extra channels really add superb dynamic range to the soundstage.
The first two-thirds of 'The Next Three Days' are a rather somber affair. There are a few scenes that are blood-boiling intense, but for the most part, the beginning is pretty reserved. Still, the dialogue is wonderfully reproduced through the center channel with the front channels using directionality perfectly. The first real oomph we end up getting from the soundtrack comes when a quiet morning is suddenly broken by the sound of a group of policemen bursting through the front door. A sudden boom, followed by the footsteps of armed cops explode from side and rear speakers making you feel like the cops are barging into your house.
Danny Elfman's score is given a lot of room to work its magic as it pumps up the intense scenes as John and Lara run from the cops. The score bleeds into the side and rear channels giving an all encompassing feel to the movie's sound. LFE kicks into gear during the escape and never lets up. Sound effects are produced with concise clarity everything from screeching tires to the deep honking horn of an oncoming semi-truck. This is a great action soundtrack, and the full 7.1 presentation really puts you smack dab in the middle of the action.
As a brainless action movie, 'The Next Three Days' does a good job at keeping your attention. If that's all you want, then this is the movie for you. However, John's plight, and his descent into the criminal world, are the more fascinating aspects of this movie, ones which are completely left in the background. He looks nervous a lot of the time, but his mood doesn't really change. He doesn't really change, and the plot works conveniently with him so he doesn't have to. The video and audio are wonderful though, so you'll know that you're getting top-notch presentations. The special features are pretty generic, but if you're a fan you'll want to listen to Haggis' commentary. Having said all that I'm still giving this one a light recommendation because it's quite an intense ride.