Film Review - The Next Three Days

So, the last night, I saw this film on Netflix. Called The Next Three Days, the film is a remake of a French film Anything For HerNo, I have not seen the original. 

The film is a story of John, a community college professor whose wife, Lara is accused of a murder that she did not commit and is jailed for the rest of her life. The professor tries all legal, moral, ethical, by-the-law routes. And fails. The wife tries to commit suicide, something tips in the professor and plots an escape path for her. And while he does that, he ends up becoming what he never was - a criminal. Oh, and there is a young son, Luke that adds to the drama. 

Without a doubt, The Next Three Days is among the best action-thriller-suspense films I've seen. There is not one thing that I would add or remove from the film. Even though the film is more than 2 hours long, I was hooked. One time I had to get up to pee and I did not want to. The writer and the director have done that great a job. 

To plot the escape, the professor starts with research. He talks to a person that has escaped from jailed seven times, charts the escape route meticulously, sells whatever he can to raise the money, gets mugged while trying to acquire fake identities, to get his wife of the jail, he plans the escape plan meticulously, gets mugged, sells his belongings, gets a gun, gets embroiled with drug dealers and does things you and I would probably not.

The writing is tight. Not one character is out of place. Even though I have seen my share of crime and suspense films, there are so many times when you go, "oh faaaak" during the film. They had to actually dumb down things for the audience at multiple points in the narrative. I would not lie but I can recall a couple of places where if they did not tell us about the suspense, I would've missed it! 

Apart from John and Lara, even the smallest character has been written well.

For example, there is this drug runner in the film that appears on the screen for like 30 seconds. Even though he is a bad guy and has three lines in the narrative, in those three lines you realize that he is not a bad guy and doing it merely because he grew up in a wrong neighborhood. 

Then there is John's brother's wife. She's apparently a pain in the backside in the first scene of the film. And when she reappears after an hour or so, she is still the same. And all she does is complain about coffee. 

Liam Neeson comes for a brief bit and as expected does a Neesony job. 

John's parents play a parenty role - caring, reliable and all. As John is planning the escape, there is this nod, handshake and a hug between him and his father that tells that the two men haven't had the most cordial relationship and they've buried the hatchet. 

There are multiple cops in the film - the one that was investigating the murder charge on wife, the one that's leading the investigation into the drug chase. Each is gritty, meticulous and working towards closure. They are great adversaries in the cat and mouse they play with John! 

The characters have been made to work hard to get what they want. There are roadblocks and lucky breaks. As with life, hundred roadblocks and just a handful of lucky breaks. The cops have had to navigate politics, inefficiency, laziness, and ingenuity of John. John is like you and me - uses YouTube to learn how to break locks, get into cars, fake reports, etc. He practices, takes small risks at first, works harder, stumbles again and then gets lucky! You know, like a typical never-say-die dude? No wonder you feel for him and you root for him! 

The lead characters - John and Lara - they are such a perfect couple that it is impossible (I guess this is the only problem I have with the film - couples can be that perfect!). They've been married for ages, have a kid and yet they are attracted to each other physically. When the wife is jailed, the husband visits her at every opportunity that he gets - he is the only one that believes in her innocence. When they know that she is not getting out, each other tries to console the other. The wife lies to nudge the husband to move on. The husband continues to paddle hope to his wife. Even when another woman makes a pass at John, he politely refuses the advances. When John finally manages to get the wife out of the reach of the cops, Lara being a moral, righteous citizen initially wants to conform to the cops and refuses to leave. She moves when John tries to tell her that they are at a point of no return and their son will be left alone if they do not run. 

No, such couples do not exist. They are unreal.

As a family, with the kid, they are, again, unreal. They have so many of these familiar traditions - souvenirs, nicknames, photos, and whatnot. And they've shown those without exaggerating. Or without hyperbole. While watching the film, I was jealous that my family had none of those!

As an audience, there are so many points in the film where you find yourself rooting for the family. You laugh with them, cry with them and you share their despair. You get your hope up and then all of it comes crashing down. The film is as roller-coastery a ride as you'd imagine.

The action is fast - keeps you on the edge all the time. At each point, I was guessing what would he do next thing that'd happen. And more often than not, I was wrong. They have planted so many Red Herrings, so fast, that you would miss the subtlety if you are not paying attention to the film. And no, you can not, NOT pay attention. It is that good!

The background music could have been better. There is not one riff that I recall, a night after I saw the film. I do remember a scene where the car does a cartwheel - the background sound design at that moment does add to the drama. But apart from that, I cant seem to remember the music.

The film is a MUST WATCH.

Oh and the film raises some questions that no one film has made me think about. How far are you willing to go for your family? Where do you draw the line on conforming to society and authorities? What if the society is wrong and you know you are right, would you fight them off? And to what end? If everyone stood for their beliefs and started to use guns, will we not descend into anarchy? And how you do leave behind all that you have stood for and become a criminal? And where do you escape?

In one line, how do you become an anti-hero? Well, he wasn't an anti-hero at all - he never felt like a bad man. Ever. I mean, I've seen my share of "family-first" films and dramas. From Prison Break to Godfather to Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam to more. While each of these is a masterpiece of cinema, they did not make me question myself about the extent to which I'd go for my family. 

Those stories are distant. They looked like the ones that would happen to someone else. Not to me. The Next Three Days could have easily been my story. One of my family members could get framed for a crime that he did not commit and even when evidence is stacked tall against him, will I continue to be on this side? Will I sell whatever I have? Will I leave my life behind? Would I pick a gun?

I am not sure. 


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