The Next Three Days has good leads in Elizabeth Banks and Russell Crowe. Their marriage seems normal, and has little niggles and bickering as well as affection. nicely they aren't perfect, and they're played with great amiability by Crowe and Banks. Therefore the arrest scene when cops suddenly swarm their house and drag Banks out for a horrific killing is upsetting and extremely dramatic.
It's a well handled scene in a movie full of them.
The script is smart enough to throw us a few red herrings, and the director even manages to instil regular jolts of fear in the audience for Crowe's character, when he keeps messing up his attempts to become a fledgling jailbreaker.
Nicely the cops and guards are far from stupid, and you get the impression that Crowe's amateur criminal is a rabbit carefully trying to make it under a sky full of hawks, with little to no chance.
There is violence, and it's handled with high tension and excitement, and nicely the film always feels like it's under control, accelerating towards its climax. The pace keeps getting better, and there are some unexpectedly good relationship moments as Crowe and his son try to cope with the stigma of being the family of a convicted murderess.
The climax is a very extended series of nerve jangling and adrenaline filled chases, and scenes of daring bravado. Director Paul Haggis keeps us biting our nails and sat up in our seats the whole time - rarely is such a complicated pay off handled so well.
My only gripe is that I hoped the film was going to play with the characters' ambiguity a little more - however, that's a very minor grumble about a movie that was a very exciting and extraordinarily well made piece of entertainment.