THE NEXT THREE DAYS (Paul Haggis)
I have a keen eye for remakes, especially those done frame by frame. That's just me; I don't like seeing the same film with the same treatment twice. (which is why LET ME IN is a letdown for me. It has some effort, but I just liked the original better).
I had very few hopes with THE NEXT THREE DAYS, seeing the first twenty minutes of the film as frame by frame recreation of the original French thriller POUR ELLE, and that I loved the original one so much. I forgot that Paul Haggis (CRASH, IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH) wrote and directed this Hollywood version, so I was surprised and delighted to see that he made the material meatier, added fine details, and the thing about every prison has a key, well Haggis takes it all too literally.
Crowe is great in a father role. He has the physique, the professor looks (he plays a teacher here), and the kind charisma when he wants to. Elizabeth Banks is no joke either. Her imprisoned mother role who's also terrified of her fate and that of their son is believable. But like I said, the golden egg in this film that saves it from mediocrity is the quality of the script; Haggis added so many great details, and hits the right notes.
Brian Dennehy (who tortured Rambo, as you may recall) plays Crowe's character's father, and he's captivating even with few lines. There is so much story in lines unspoken.
Whereas the original moral dilemma of the ends justifying the means in the French original is still here, Haggis adds another moral subtext (I don't know if it's intentional or accidental) which is the advent of modern technology, like the internet allowing people to learn about things like how to pick a lock, or maybe even how to escape from prison. If Crowe wasn't fighting for a good cause, how do you think you would feel that he learned how to be a criminal from the internet?
In the climax, as in POUR ELLE, Haggis brings out the big guns, with more cop cars, and more intense manhunt. While not entirely believable, you'll just find yourself rooting for Crowe and Banks to make i out alive. The presentation is that good.
There is also a good part where Haggis tried to localize the story by tying the plot to the history, and topography of Pittsburgh. Though not entirely local color like what Scorsese did in THE DEPARTED working from the fused plots of the INFERNAL AFFAIRS trilogy, Haggis at least establishes difference between his film and the source material.
In closing, THE NEXT THREE DAYS is the same and different with POUR ELLE, but both are beautiful in their respective way.