A frustrated man decides to take justice into his own hands after a plea bargain sets one of his family's killers free. He targets not only the killer but also the district attorney and others involved in the deal.
Lara Brennan is arrested for murdering her boss with whom she had an argument. It seems she was seen leaving the scene of the crime and her fingerprints were on the murder weapon. Her husband, John would spend the next few years trying to get her released, but there's no evidence that negates the evidence against her. And when the strain of being separated from her family, especially her son, gets to her, John decides to break her out. So he does a lot of research to find a way. Written by
The best films are those where you are introduced to characters who do the unpredictable believably, or people you think will be key players die in the opening scene, someone you least expect turns out to be the murderer, these are the films that keep you guessing and keep you involved. In Paul Haggis' intense thriller he chooses a wise and well crafted angle to lure you in and hold your attention. The development of John Brennan and his gradual transformation over time before your very eyes.
Meet John Brennan, he's a normal average working man, slightly nerdy even, living a fairly dull routine life. When his wife is imprisoned for murder John, as you would expect of a normal average slightly nerdy working man follows the rules of appeal in an attempt to win her freedom. Three years pass and the realisation that his wife will remain behind bars for life hits home. When normal people find themselves in hopeless situations desperation can drive them to do very abnormal things.
What Haggis works brilliantly into both his screenplay and direction is the gradual metamorphosis of Brennan's persona as he becomes fixated on breaking his wife out of prison. Brennan doesn't suddenly become the all American action hero capable of great feats of courage. We have a knowledge of his character from the beginning of the film and Haggis does not treat the audience as idiots, we know that Brennan cannot walk into a phonebox and there's a sudden change into superman. This would not work for John Brennan, the nerdy schoolteacher, what we see however is how little by little, piece by piece he falls more and more out of control, deeper and deeper out of his depth. We know this is not the normal behaviour of Brennan, but the screenplay is so well crafted and Crowe delivers the character to us perfectly that both the scenarios and Brennan remain at all times, believable. He makes tremendous mistakes and shows real human failings and frailties that as we ride along with him we're never far from the belief that it will all go very wrong, very soon. Haggis treats us to a wonderfully woven story that rolls along with ease, then suddenly the momentum builds into a Tsunami of real tension. Brennan is completely exposed and you fear for his outcome.
If a director can pull you into the story, make you care about a character, and if during the course of that film allow you to watch that character change in a very real and gradual way then he has delivered a truly great film.
Haggis' screenplay does not allow the audience to get ahead of the story. Developments are unexpected and plausible scenarios affect action and reaction. Some events have no bearing on the outcome but you cannot know which are red herrings and which are genuine avenues rather you find yourself wondering where this will all lead to, making The Next Three Days a complex and intriguing thriller very much in the cerebral and classical sense such as North by Northwest or Vertigo.
A tremendous, faultless film.
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