Reviewed by: Scott Brennan
|Featuring:||Olivia Wilde (Nicole), Liam Neeson (Damon), Russell Crowe (John Brennan), Elizabeth Banks (Laura), Brian Dennehy (George Brennan), more »|
|Producer:||Lionsgate, Fidélité Films (Paris, France), Hwy61, Olivier Delbosc, Eugénie Grandval, Paul Haggis, more »|
“What if you had 72 hours to save everything you live for?”
How far would you go to help someone you love? How many lines are you willing to cross? At what point do your actions become part of the very kind of injustice you might be fighting? These questions are asked and answered in this riveting film—similar in storyline to the recent film “Conviction” (which I did not see); only this film is not based on a true story. It’s pure fiction, but its captivating delivery makes even the implausible seem possible.
If you liked the 1993 film “The Fugitive” where Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is being chased by Deputy Marshal Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) or if you were a fan of the über-suspense-thriller “Taken” with Liam Neeson tracking down his daughter’s kidnappers, then you’re most certainly going to like this one. “The Next 3 Days” provides all the required twists and turns of this genre.
While the beginning of the film is somewhat slow, the third act is reminiscent of the Jason Bourne series, and to say the film keeps you on the edge of your seat would be an understatement. This is not surprising, of course, when you consider the source: Paul Haggis, the talented writer-director-producer, and one of the few in Oscar® history to pull off back-to-back nominations in the writing category (2004—“Million Dollar Baby,” 2005—“Crash” winner). While this was an adaptation from the 2008 French film “Pour Elle,” he managed to make it his own and delivered, what many will argue, a better product than the original.
The movie has three acts: The Next Three Years, The Next Three Months, and the Next Three Days—compacted in a series of a few start-stop flashbacks and flash forwards, but adding little complication to the script. This one is tight. Russell Crowe convincingly fills the role of a community college literature professor (John Brennan) who is madly in love with his wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) and son Luke, until “life happens.” In one of those acts, his wife Lara is arrested for a murder she did not commit, and that’s where the story really takes a turn. Will the legal appeals work? What if they don’t? How does she deal with this sentence? And what about their six year old being teased at school about a mommy that’s in jail for murder? Will he ever come out of his boyhood shell? Can a family like this ever be reunited, and if so, at what cost? Can a father continue to raise a son without the woman he loves so deeply?
Of course, this genre generally negates a Christian worldview, and this one is no exception. “The Next Three Days” promotes the traditional Romantic idealistic worldview, i.e., that man is moved by his heart and emotions, and that he is essentially good and that “good” will prevail if left alone. The very fact that no one ever mentions God or thinks about praying in the circumstances they find themselves in—during any part of this film—is baffling to those of us who are Christians. But sadly, that is how many people in the world actually live, depending solely on their own strength, hope, and belief in their inherent goodness to get through life. That’s why the issue of suicide had to be confronted during the film and both times were troubling.
Also, there are drug sales, seedy dark alleys with violence, and obscenities being used in scenes where the professor really has to get out of his element to carry out his plan. (I have 8 “d” words and a couple of “h-ll”.) In fact, in one scene, a dealer says to him, “You want this too much. You’re going to “f” it up!” There are also 4 uses of profanity (g-d) and one “For Christ’s sakes,” “Jesus Christ” (2), “Jesus” (2), plus various vulgarities (“s” words, “t*ts”, *ss, “b*tch”).
There is no nudity, but implied relations between husband and wife in their car, some brief cleavage by Lara’s sister-in-law while they drink over dinner and sexual innuendos that pass between them in a heated conversation.
Ultimately, Crowe ends up with weapons, finds himself in a drug dealer’s house, shots are fired and people die. This is a particularly rough part of the film, in terms of the violence. This is not a film for children or preteens. It’s for adults or mature teens only, if at all. It earned the PG-13 rating.
Paul Haggis was once quoted as saying, “The worst thing you can do to a filmmaker is to walk out of his film and go, ‘That was a nice movie.’ But if you can cause people to walk out and then argue about the film on the sidewalk… I think we’re all seeking dissension, and we love to affect an audience.”
His film definitely accomplishes his goal. I heard the same thing last night as I left the theater. People were arguing over the actions of the different characters and what they should and should not have done, many of them while the credits rolled, because, like me they couldn’t leave. The wild ride of tension, the incredible musical background and meticulous direction of this film almost paralyzes the viewer. It’s kind of like, “What did I just experience?”
My thoughts kept drifting back to the beginning of the film where Professor Brennan is teaching his class and talking about Don Quixote’s notion “that belief in virtue is more important than virtue itself,” which sets the stage for the Romantic worldview I alluded to earlier. I think that Brennan concludes that if the system is not working, then creating a reality that does—is okay, because the end justifies the means. It seems so right at the time, but the haunting truth of the Scripture is: “God is not mocked, whatsoever man sows, that will he also reap” (Gal 6:7). Throughout the film, I kept seeing road blocks that—to me were signs from God to “stop” and pursue a different path, but to the romantic, it was “go”—and “who do I need to be to get over this, and what will that look like?”
I know I’ve been challenged for my Next Three Days, to think about why virtue is important and why I choose to live a life that is pleasing to God, rather than what pleases me. This is the whole duty of man (Eccl. 12:13). If the protagonist in this film was willing to go to these extremes for what he considered to be love, at the expense of virtue, couldn’t I be willing to go to the same extremes—in simple surrender—because of virtue? Something to think about.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.