John (Crowe) is a university literature professor who is struggling to cope with the fact that his wife Lara (Banks) has been imprisoned for murder.
Convinced of her innocence, he launches three years of appeals, all of which fail. Now at the end of his tether, he begins to hatch an unthinkable plan to reunite her with him and their 6-year-old son (Simpkins). After consulting an expert (Neeson), the question remains whether a mild-mannered schoolteacher can stage a daring prison break. And two cops (Hinds and Beghe) are closing in on him.
Haggis skilfully writes and directs, using a sleek visual style while smoothing out the original version's plot holes, although this makes the story less focused on John's helplessness in the face of an imperfect justice system.
Instead, the story holds firmly to John's perspective as we watch his transformation from a happy family man to a desperate criminal, with chapters titled The Last 3 Years, The Last 3 Months and The Last 3 Days.
Crowe underplays this beautifully, drawing out emotion even in the film's most suspenseful moments. He even makes the gradual ramping up of the stakes surprisingly believable, as the sassy/pedantic police officers figure out what's happening. This is pretty much his show completely; Banks is the only other character who registers at all (with a small, wrenching performance), and everyone else is essentially only around for a scene or two.
As the story progresses, the intensity cranks up seriously through a couple of full-on thriller sequences that build to a suspenseful cat-and-mouse finale.
But everything remains tightly centred on John, which gives the whole film a powerful gut-punch. Most impressive is the way we begin to wonder how far we would go in a similar situation. Especially since it seems almost eerily easy to get all the information you'd need from a simple internet search.
Run time: 133 mins
In Theaters: Friday 19th November 2010
Box Office USA: $21.1M
Box Office Worldwide: $51.1M
Distributed by: Lionsgate
Production compaines: Hwy61, Lionsgate, Fidélité Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 52%
Fresh: 83 Rotten: 78
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Director: Paul Haggis
Screenwriter: Paul Haggis
Starring: Russell Crowe as John Brennan, Brian Dennehy as George Brennan, RZA as Mouss, Moran Atias as Erit, Jason Beghe as Detective Quinn, Nazanin Boniadi as Elaine, Tyrone Giordano as Mike, Ty Simpkins as Luke, Patrick Brennan as Security Gaurd, Elizabeth Banks as Lara, Olivia Wilde as Nicole, Liam Neeson as Damon, Jonathan Tucker as David, Lennie James as Lieutenant Nabulsi, Michael Buie as Mick Brennan, Helen Carey as Grace Brennan
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