Clever thriller. Pass the popcorn.

As with most suspension-driven thrillers, there is always that built-in awareness, an unspoken agreement that occurs at the ticket kiosk or when pushing the “Open/Close” button on the Blu-ray player, that a dose of suspension-of-disbelief as hefty as the salt on that bag of popcorn is as sure to occur as is a montage sequence showing the story’s protagonist preparing for that daredevil dive into the breathtaking unknown. The Next Three Days, writer/director Paul Haggis’ thriller starring Russell Crowe and based from the 2008 French film Pour Elle, is a convincingly-fun, escape-plan thriller that still has its moments of disbelief-suspension, but can be considered as serious as those popped-air calories.

In a typical wrongly-accused fashion, Crowe’s wife, Lara, played by Elizabeth Banks, is convicted of murder and sent to a high-level security prison. The courts cannot seem to help and for his own sake, and that of his son’s, Crowe’s John Brennan opts to break her out and flee the country. There are, of course, rules for doing such and Liam Neeson provides those with a gruff-and-wizened voice of a Jedi teacher that the Internet has yet to master. The Internet does, however, provide Brennan with all of the other techniques he needs in his arsenal, such as making a bump key and breaking into a van with a tennis ball.

Next Three Days film reviewPaul Haggis’ film gains intensity as the actual prison break occurs. Aside from the convenience that Lara is a diabetic and requires frequent blood work, which is what gives Brennan his inside move, the audience is treated to the run of the escape as opposed to the planning – don’t worry, the planning montage set to Danny Elfman’s score is still there – allowing for more than a few heart-quickening moments where an out seems impossible.

Alongside the “how” of the plan, Haggis addresses the “why”, albeit in a typical Hollywood theme. The clarity in the hearts of her men that Lara’s absence had since muddied since her incarceration three years ago; John is listless in his career and their son, Luke, doesn’t interact with other kids. The answer is obviously that love will find a way, and it does with the help of the Internet and a detailed, long-range plan. Haggis’ film is clever, fun, and highly-enjoyable. Now, pass that popcorn over if you don’t mind.

A version of this review was posted on imdb.com

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