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Russell Crowe crosses a line where people would never dare to go in this satisfying thriller by Paul Haggis.

Blu-ray Review: The Next Three Days

“What part of our life is truly under our control?”

The Next Three Days is based on the French film Anything for Her (a.k.a. Pour Elle), directed and co-written by Fred Cavayé, who also receives co-writing credit for this remake with Guillaume Lemans. This thriller mixes family drama with a crime story for a potent filmmaking brew. Paul Haggis directs Russell Crowe (John Brennen) and Elizabeth Banks (John’s wife Laura), who goes to jail for murder. John’s love for her and martial duties gradually phase from minimal legal battles to a crucial life-changing decision to free her.

As depicted in early dinner scene, Laura will fight for herself and her family, which also includes their young son Luke (Ty Simpkins). Familiar scenarios and tired clichés are mostly absent here, but some fuzzy logic issues arise, especially when John walks the line from law-abiding citizen to undercover criminal.

John does not have all the answers as his normal life turns into crime-related Internet research after exhausting all legal options to free Laura from jail. His most notable SNAFU is not to wear gloves when accessing a medical records van, something that would not escape the common sense of a college professor. Most audiences recognize this crime scene 101 point – if you are going to get away with a crime, then do not leave fingerprints.

The Next Three Days does not accentuate his profession or other clichéd factors. Audience can engage in the scenarios, which are largely free from predictability and manipulative emotional ploys.

The refreshing plot introduces several characters throughout John’s exploits. At first, the recognizable characters might start a cavalcade of “who done it” possibilities, but they actually bolster John’s involvement. Liam Neeson headlines the supporting cast in a small role that anchors the plot. Olivia Wilde, Daniel Stern, Brian Dennehy, RZA, and Kevin Corrigan all make an impression while Lennie James displays great talents and an authentic U.S. accent as a high-ranking law enforcement officer who appears later in the plot.

Filmed in Pittsburgh, which houses the world’s biggest prison, The Next Three Days presents scenery audiences can identify with while the plot utilizes several effective tools; including a “how did things get to that point” sequence near the beginning involving a mini-mystery in a car.

John encounters accidental brilliance in the film’s third act as factors of luck, fate, and sheer will come to the forefront. A key scene where James collaborates with other officers to track a suspect wisely loops audiences back to a questionable assumption. Audiences can really enjoy following the action and the little gems along the way as the deliberate elements make complete sense because they mainly originate from main characters and not the situations the main characters encounter.

When situations do arise, the character’s adaptation is subtle yet very effective. John’s low-key demeanor drives the heightened involvement while filmmakers avoid making John the boisterous cheerleader when he has a victory.

This Blu-ray version pops with decent extra features, a sharp 7.1 DTS-HD sound mix, and engaging visual presentation that makes Pittsburgh a key character in this recommended film. Viewers enjoy a greater sense of the settings, character expressions and sound effects. The sound takes center stage with a loud, but not overwhelming, arrest sequence. The subdued color contrast provides a documentary-like style while still providing a sharp picture even when the camera is in motion. The Blu-ray presentation accentuates Haggis’ smooth direction.

In the “Men Of The Next Three Days” featurette, Brian Dennehy provides some great moments while commenting on his low dialogue scenes. Neeson and Crowe are also featured, but it would have been great to see James prominently featured too. Banks mentions spending considerable time with real women prisoners, which mirrors the entire cast’s high dedication level.

Director/writer/co-producer Paul Haggis gives audiences in-depth views into the process, especially the high numbers of camera shots. The filmmaker’s commentary includes Haggis, producer Michael Nozik, and editor Jo Francis. More detail on a short, but effective special effects scene involving a van would have been nice.

This version also includes a DVD version and digital version. Familiar extended scenes and the “Making Of” featurette provide a high level of entertainment here. The extended scenes run for about six minutes to provide more information on the “bump key”, John and his brother. The cast moments personalize the experience even more with set snap shots and minor bloopers.

Co-star Jason Beghe hosts the memorable “True Escapes for Love” segment that lasts about seven minutes. This featurette could easily expand as filmmakers keep a quick focus on notable crime and resulting fugitive cases including the infamous Bonnie and Clyde. Audio options include English, French, English SDH, and French audio with text subtitles while Danny Elfman’s musical score gracefully follows the plot without missing a beat of the action. The driving scores sychronizes especially well during the car chase sequences.

If the audience invests, the payoff stays high. Every presented element plays some role after this two hours and 13 minute film plays out. It is great to see a quality film not driven by interruptive special effects, gratuitous violence or constant profanity. Recommended and rated PG-13 for violence, drug material, language, some sexuality, and thematic elements.

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