Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Day Seventy-nine - The Next Three Days, or "Tension. Pure, Unadulterated Tension."

Thrillers are generally hit or miss with me... even if they have a clever premise, they're either riddled with plot holes or stretch my suspension of disbelief far beyond the breaking point, leaving me a bit bitter, even if I enjoyed myself.

Take The Fugitive, for example.

I love that movie, but it's so utterly ridiculous. The one-armed man, the U.S.Marshals, the real reason for the murder/coverup, the dive from the dam... all of it. Prime popcorn movie, but even as it's relatively smart, it still makes me sigh all over the place.

The Next Three Days, however... wow.

This is the pattern from which all thrillers should be cut.

First of all, it keeps you amped pretty much the entirety of the movie. Even when there's a moment of relaxation, it's bookended by supremely tense moments... and that's right from the start.

The movie opens on a dinner where Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks are double dating with his brother and sister-in-law. An argument unexpectedly breaks out and I could feel myself digging my fingers into the cushion of my seat. Then, there's a brief intimate interlude, so... sexual tension. From there we have a moment of respite where we see domestic bliss then--BAM--police are busting down the door.

And there are sequences like that throughout the entirety of the movie. Good, smart, tight moments of pacing, always keeping you on the edge of your seat.

We see Crowe's character John go from supportive, but despairing, husband and father into a new phase of his life, one dedicated to getting his wife out of prison, no matter what the cost... so long as they are together as a family. He sells his house, his furniture, everything. He even goes so far as to consider robbing a bank... but settles for the ill-gotten gains of a neighborhood drug dealer instead.

Elizabeth Banks doesn't get as much screen time as Crowe, but she's just as dedicated to her own role. Whether it's her jailhouse suicide attempt or her pushing her husband away, Banks' Lara is every bit believable... especially considering, for the length of the movie, you're never really sure that she actually is innocent. Her husband is, though, and that's all that matters. It's a great way to keep the audience suspicious, yet invested... skeptical, yet sympathetic.

I also love the supporting actors... whether it's Daniel Stern as John and Lara's lawyer, Brian Dennehy as John's gruff father, Olivia Wilde as a playmate's mother... Liam Neeson, The RZA, Lennie James, and Kevin Corrigan. There is a tremendous cast of side characters here, and every single one of them is authentic and pitch perfect.

Honestly, The Next Three Days is one of the smartest written, well directed, impeccably shot, and excellently acted thrillers that I've seen in years.

Seriously, go out and check this movie as soon as you can. It ranks up there with Cloud Atlas, Lincoln, and Paperman in terms of great films that I've seen in the past year. I only wish I had caught it in the theaters.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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