I went to see The Next Three Days at the Woodland Hills AMC. It doesn’t look like much from the outside but coming from the hills as I do, I am always amazed at the size of some of these LA theaters. Easily three times the size of the city theater I normally frequent. They filled every seat and came out before the screening to tell us that we were the first audience to ever see it, and request that we stay to give feedback after.
The film starts off with an attention grabbing sequence but then darts back in time to fill us in on the events that lead to this point. The basic premise, that Laura Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) is arrested at the family home for a murder her husband John, played by Russell, does not believe she commits. John is an ordinary guy with an extraordinary sense of conviction whose faith in his wife’s innocence will not be swayed even when everyone around him is expressing doubt. The audience’s sense of doubt is further enhanced by seeing different interpretations of the crime.
Russell conveys the pathos in the family’s situation to great effect – you feel very badly for this man and his son and you wonder at times, as his family does, at his sanity. Once the emotional connection to John is established the film really takes off, as John makes up his mind to try and save his wife by whatever means possible. As he goes about developing his plan, he keeps making the same kind of mistakes you or I might make. This raises the tension significantly because you keep expecting John to get caught, or to screw it all up, and then if both parents are locked up or dead, who is going to raise their adorable, depressed 6 year old boy played by Ty Simpkins. This kid has an amazing list of credits at imdb.
The screening people told us that some of the music and effects were not yet finished, and that one scene in particular was still awaiting background effects. When that scene finished the audience burst into cheers and applause. We did not regret the missing effects. That is due to the strength of the story, the acting and the direction. The audience burst into applause again later at a particularly clever plot twist. It is so much fun to watch these compelling characters respond to the wonderfully unpredictable turns of events. I could hear people around me guessing about the character’s next moves. My advice is to scrupulously avoid plot spoilers with this film no matter how much you might normally not mind them. The film moves like a locomotive that builds slowly at first but soon feels like it is careening nearly out of control before winding down to the end. I was worn out!
Hopefully it’s not too much of a spoiler if I share how surprised I was to see so many familiar yet unexpected faces including Daniel Stern, Trudie Styler, and Michael Buie (Connor Banks from Mystery, Alaska). I had read that RZA, Liam Neeson were both in it and both are on screen too briefly, but with a cast like this I’m glad they were included and utilized well. Brian Dennehy is on screen longer and gives a perfectly understated performance.
Russell looks wonderfully like himself in this movie so that’s a plus too. Can’t wait to see it again.