The Next Three Days (2010)

Rated PG-13. Our ratings: V-4; L- 2; S/N-1 . Running time: 2 hours 2 min.

A capable wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
Proverbs 3:10-11

John and Lara make a dash for freedom.

2010 Lionsgate

John apparently has found in Lara a wife “far more precious than jewels,” as we see when she is accused of killing her boss with a gun. All the circumstantial evidence is against her: she had quarreled with her boss and expected to be fired; the blood on her coat matches that of the victim; the gun found by her car has her finger prints on it. However, such is his faith in Lara that John never asks her if she is innocent. He knows she is, and does all he can to help her. In several flashbacks we see the crime, but the identity of the killer is not revealed, so we are left to wonder whether Lara is innocent or guilty.

The verdict goes against Lara, and she is sentenced to a long prison term. The appeal process is exhausted, and in three months Lara will be transferred from the county jail to prison. Still, John, who teaches literature at a junior college, will not give up. But unlike the sister in the similarly plotted film Conviction, (up unto now, that is), John does not go to law school to become better equipped to use the legal system to help his wife. Instead, he finds inspiration in his lecture on Don Quixote, when he asks, “What if we chose to exist in a reality completely of our own making?” Seeing the Spanish novel’s theme as “the triumph of irrationality,” he embarks upon a daring plan certainly matches that theme. The reality of his own making, the freeing of his wife, is certainly an irrational striking out at the legal system that has failed them.

John begins researching how he might break Lara out of jail and also what country does not have an extradition treaty with the United States. Enter former criminal Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson in all too brief scene) who has written a book about his life, which included prison escapes. During his interview with the man he is warned of the danger. He soon finds that this is true when his plan to secure false passports from someone in Pittsburgh’s underworld turns out badly. And his clumsy attempt to test the security system while visiting his wife almost lands him in prison himself. John also has doubts about the morality of what he is doing (or at least part of it); at one point when he is about to rob a store (or was it a bank?) to secure the money needed for his plan, he pulls back. All along he is the sole caregiver of their young son Luke (Ty Simpkins). Indeed, the film could have gone off in a different direction when at a park where parents bring their children to play, an apparently single mother displays an interest in John.

Director Paul Haggis’s remake of the 2008 French thriller Pour Elle is filled with unlikely coincidences, as well as dubious morality, yet once John launches the jail break, the pace speeds up so that we forget all about the implausibility’s. First Lara, who has not been told of his plan, must overcome her shock and reluctance to go along. Then, there are so many obstacles to overcome that we continue rooting for them, even though we also know that they are flowing the wrong path.

For Reflection/Discussion

Spoiler in the last question.

1. How is this film different from Conviction? What do you think of John’s decision to go outside the law? (Of course, there would be no thriller if he didn’t.)

2. How is he a different kind of a person from the protagonist in most other prison break films? How is he an “everyman” ? What do you think of his being inspired by Don Quixote? How do his plans unfold differently from those in other films of this genre?

3. How does the film fit in with the widespread feeling of frustration with the law and due process in our society today?

4. One of the detectives in pursuit of John seems to have second thoughts about Lara’s guilt. What purpose does this, and especially his scene with his partner near the end of the film, serve? What if the button had not been swept by the water down into the sewer? Do you think that this is the filmmakers’ attempt to justify John?