The Next Three Days - 21st November 2010

We basically decided that this weekend would be a hibernation weekend, punctuated only by a couple of trips to the cinema to see Morning Glory and The Next Three Days. My hope was, that with Harry Potter 7 part 1 out this weekend too, that these other two, lower tier, movies would be relatively quiet. 
It was refreshing to see the cinema relatively full for both these films and also annoying as all hell because, well, as much as I love the cinema going experience, whatever the movie, I generally hate other people, especially when they congregate together as they seemingly forget their manners.
Normally, to avoid the majority of people, especially children or teenagers, and as we are night owls, we tend to go to the last screening of the night which is usually around 11pm. This was the case yesterday for Morning Glory and despite the film not being up to much, the cinema going experience was fine and dandy. The same can not be said about tonight, which is a shame because this was definitely the better film of the two. Tonight we went at 7:45pm which was a big mistake because not only was it already busy when we went to find our seats but my heart gradually sank and my tension levels slowly rose as the seats around us and in front of us filled up. We had every type of annoying patron possible from mobile phone users to packet rustlers and one particularly disgusting fiend who was obviously sick who coughed throughout the whole movie and used a cup holder as a tissue depository. I feel like I was raised in the 1950s or something but why is it nobody else seems to have any damn manners in public anymore? The cinema/train/bus/shop/restaurant is not your own private living room, it's a public space! Nobody cares about your conversations, likes your phone usage, wants to hear you open confectionary loudly, masticate audibly, cough, blow your nose, fart or any other disgusting bodily practices usually reserved for ones own bedroom or a bathroom. To maintain the illusion, once the lights go down, you face front, shut the hell up as much as possible and avoid contact with the seat in front of you, I paid my $13 too you know, have some damn courtesy! (comments on this below please)

Anyway, rant over, now to the film in hand:
The Next Three Days, although I didn't know this going in, is the remake of a French movie Pour Elle. Now, with hindsight, I sort of wish I'd seen that but as I didn't know I am reviewing this simply as the experience I had watching this, the English language version. 
If you haven't seen the trailer, this is a film about a podgy community college professor, his implausibly attractive wife and their son and what happens to them when she is accused of murder, and jailed for 20 years. After 2 years of attempted but failed appeals, the husband decides, at all costs, to break her out of prison because he loves her, doesn't believe she's capable of murder and also is a bit of a dreamer. Russell Crowe in post Robin Hood, pie-binged, podgester mode and Elizabeth Banks in serious actress mode play the husband and wife respectively in this slightly over long and dry drama of a film by Paul 'I am a very furrowed brow makingly serious, Oscar winning writer/director don't you know" Haggis.
I went in, because of the previews, thinking this was going to be something between Taken and The Fugitive and instead ended up watching, for the first two thirds of the movie at least, a fairly slow moving, calculated drama about a determined husband and his attempts to put an escape plot together while raising a kid alone. It's not until the escape plot is underway that the movie begins to take off but it's definitely a bit too little too late. Crowe and Banks do some great work and the supporting cast and cameos, presumably down to Haggis' academy kudos, are all played by well known but unexpected thesps, which does raise this above the level of a made-for-TV movie of the week (only just) but also throws you out of the movie somewhat as you sit there going, "oh look Olivia Wilde playing another, unusually attractive, Pennsylvanian school mam of one, that's weird!" and "wasn't that Daniel Stern as Crowe's attorney?" Something which the chattering feeders behind me couldn't help whispering at vital moments of the plot. What hideous excuses for humanity.
It's also all well put together, directed without any glaring errors, apart from the dragging pace at times, it's just, somewhere along the line, Haggis, no doubt inspired by the existentialism and angst that, let's face it, probably wafts out of the French film like the smoke from a freshly lit Gauloies and his seemingly inflated sense of his own talent, thought he was writing a gritty, soul searching, academy impressing and earnest piece when really he should've gone more for the action orientated angle that he gives into in the finale. I personally, for example, could have done with seeing some table thumping and emotional puffery in a court case scene or Banks coping with the very 'real, grimy hell' of being in prison all rendered in Hollywood style heightened dramatic reality but instead I had to sit through an hour and a half of Russell Crowe mumbling.
This would've all been fine, I am sure, if I knew what I was letting myself in for, however, a lot like The Town before it, this is a fairly average prison escape adventure rendered as a talky, thinky piece that believes itself to be great and important but really is just another film full of obvious old cliches and contrived plot points.
All that said, though, I did enjoy it and would like to see it again now that I know what I am letting myself in for. It is uneven, certainly, but it has the strength of its own convictions and follows a slightly more realistic and therefor unorthodox way of telling a standard action/drama story right up to the very end where, they sort of have to wrap everything up in a neat-ish bow which, for this film at least, spoils it.
You see, when it began, I wandered if, like The Fugitive, part of the whole escape would involve proving the wife's innocence but as it went on I realised more and more that the question of whether she's innocent or not is irrelevant because the husband believes completely that she is, we're following the husband and so the only thing that matters is his conviction, determination and ultimate success. We root for him because he's basically a good guy, loves his wife, loves his kid and we see nobody else's point of view, after an hour it has completely ceased to become even a smidgen of relevant whether she killed her boss or not because that is not the story being told. The fact then that they bother to wrap it up in the end and give you a definite answer either way makes me think that either A) we were meant to care about that all along, which I didn't and that diminishes the intention I got from the flick or B) some studio head watched it and said "well folks from Iowa are gonna want to know whether she did or didn't do it" and that makes Paul Haggis a big fraud. Hollywood obviously learnt nothing from Inception then and apparently, despite 100 years plus of cinema being behind us, someone somewhere still believes they need to tell me what to think.
If you are going to try and tell a story like this a bit differently, which they obviously where, then have the strength to see your vision right to the end and leave it ambiguous, make the film be about what a man would do for his family and the courage of humanity and not just another episode of Murder She Wrote.

So, in conclusion, don't go in expecting too much action, this is flabby, mumbly, slobby and sweater wearing Russell Crowe not boring, action man, Ridley Scott directed Russell Crowe, know that it takes its time to tell its story and if you're an adult who appreciates good acting, sturdy, if unimaginative direction and wants to avoid Harry Potter at all costs then you could do worse than see The Next Three Days, after all, you could be fooled into seeing Morning Glory.
6.5 out of 10 pies for Russell's waist line
Points from The Wife 6 out of 10 pies

The Muppets Take Manhattan - 24th November 2010

Morning Glory - 20th November 2010