When he's not custom-fitting Oscar magnets, Paul Haggis is responsible for shaking and stirring the screenplays for Daniel Craig’s 007.
With The Next Three Days, he aims to bridge the gap with a movie that’s both a rollicking jailbreak adventure and an incisive character study of a man on the edge.
Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks are marrieds John and Laura Brennan, whose lives unravels when Laura’s banged up for murder.
Convinced she’s innocent, John hatches a rescue bid.
Reworking French thriller Anything For Her, Haggis is faithful to the original’s blend of ambiguity and silliness, as lecturer John becomes a criminal expert via YouTube tutorials and coffee with serial escapee Liam Neeson.
Symbolically, John teaches Don Quixote as a celebration of the irrational. His plan is certainly that, but Neeson’s reality check reveals bleak windmills to be tilted at.
Is John prepared to barge a granny out of his path, or abandon his son at the roadside, for a clean getaway?
Haggis sidesteps these moral quandaries, however: the only people Crowe has to hurt are a bunch of crack dealers.
Happily, Haggis considerably ups the peril during the second half, but he remains intent on tidying up his own moral mess, smoothing narrative kinks by cheating Neeson’s absconder code.
What complexity remains is down to Crowe, who grounds John’s unlikely metamorphosis with nervy fragility, getting mugged by more experienced crims, or puking after a disastrous reconnaissance mission.
The sensible option would be to give up, but in the end, irrationality – and the need for an action-packed finale – wins out.
Haggis struggles to make his presence felt over ludicrous thrills, but Crowe is superb and the entertainment factor high.