Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks) is wrongly convicted of murdering her boss and is sentenced to life in prison. Her young son Luke ceases to acknowledge her during prison visits. Following the failure of her appeal, her attorney balks at her acquittal. Lara attempts suicide and her husband, John (Russell Crowe), becomes obsessed with breaking her out of prison.
John consults Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson), a former inmate who wrote a book on escaping prison. Following Damon's advice, John prepares to break his wife out. He studies escape routes, prison routines and buys a handgun. Struggling to obtain fake IDs, he loses much of his money. He sells his furniture and belongings. John is almost caught testing a bump key inside Lara's current jail.
When John learns that Lara will be transferred in 3 days to a distant prison facility, he is forced to make an emergency plan. Unable to sell his house in time, he considers robbing a bank, but hesitates at the last minute. Desperate at his wife's failing mental health, John tails a local drug dealer to a drug house and robs it of cash.
Invoking his plan, John plants falsified blood work indicating Lara is in a state of hyperkalemia and leaves Luke at a birthday party. Lara is transferred from jail to a nearby hospital.
Following clues left behind at the drug house, police track down John's car, find his empty house and conclude that he is planning to break his wife out.
Lara's guards at the hospital are overtaken by John, and he convinces her to escape with him. John and Lara exit the hospital, narrowly evade police and leave the area. They discover Luke is at the zoo for the birthday party and drive there to retrieve him while police establish roadblocks around the city. John and Lara pass a roadblock by picking up an elderly couple for cover. They drop off the couple and drive to a Canadian airport. Police are misled by escape plan fragments John has purposely left behind and delay the wrong flight. John, Lara and Luke successfully board a plane to Venezuela.
Detectives return to the crime scene where Lara's boss was killed. A flashback shows details of the murder and Lara's innocence. Remembering that Lara claimed to have lost a button at the time of the murder, a detective searches a nearby storm drain but just misses the button.
John, Lara and Luke arrive at a hotel in Venezuela. As Lara lies down next to her son, Luke kisses his mother and they fall asleep together. As the film ends, John takes a picture of his sleeping wife and son.Russell Crowe as John Brennan
Elizabeth Banks as Lara Brennan
Brian Dennehy as George Brennan
Lennie James as Lieutenant Nabulsi
Olivia Wilde as Nicole
Ty Simpkins as Luke
Helen Carey as Grace Brennan
Liam Neeson as Damon Pennington
Daniel Stern as Meyer Fisk
Kevin Corrigan as Alex
Jason Beghe as Detective Quinnan
Aisha Hinds as Detective Collero
Tyrone Giordano as Mike
Jonathan Tucker as David
Allan Steele as Sergeant Harris
RZA as Mouss
James Ransone as Harv
Moran Atias as Erit
Michael Buie as Mick Brennan
Trudie Styler as Dr. Byrdie Lifson
Tyler M Green and Toby J. Green as 3-year-old Luke
Kaitlyn Wylde as Julie
Paul Haggis was developing a film about Martin Luther King but could not get the financing. He began looking for less expensive projects and came across the French film Pour Elle (Anything for Her) by Fred Cavayé.
The plot of Pour Elle involves a teacher, Julien (Vincent Lindon), who experiences difficulties when his wife (Diane Kruger) becomes a suspect in a murder investigation and is arrested; Julien does not believe that his wife is guilty of the crime, and attempts to remove her from the prison. Pour Elle was Cavayé's directing debut. The film was one of the main attractions of the Alliance Française French Film Festival in 2010. Cavayé explained the plot and motivation for making the film, "We wanted to make a real human story about an ordinary man doing an extraordinary thing because he's faced with a miscarriage of justice. The film also talks about courage - saying how you show courage depending on the situation. In France, for example, there were good people who did not go into the Resistance against the Germans."
Haggis later recalled, "I’d always wanted to do a little thriller. I'd always loved films like Three Days of the Condor, those romantic thrillers... It’s a lovely, slight, 90-minute film, the French film."
Haggis made a number of key changes from the French film:
They made it quite clear from the beginning of the film, she was innocent, and that he was loving, and he'd do anything to get her out, and, in the end, they lived happily ever after. The bumps along the way were good but I thought I could make him pay a larger price. So, the first thing I did was ask myself what the question was. I need to have a question if I'm starting a movie. The question I came up with, and I'm not sure if it's reflected in the film or not, but it's what I was writing toward, was: Would you save the woman you loved if you knew that by doing so you'd become someone she'd no longer love? That interested me. And that wasn't in the French film at all. The whole issue of innocence was fascinating to me because I didn’t necessarily want to say whether she was guilty or innocent. I just wanted John to be the only one who believes she’s innocent. The evidence is overwhelming. Even his parents think she’s probably guilty. Even their own lawyer. Yet he still believed… and what that level of belief does for someone, how infectious it is. So, those are two things I was playing with.
Cavayé told The Age regarding the remake of the film by Haggis, he is eager "to be a spectator of my own film". The director commented on the news his film would be remade by Haggis, "It's a strange feeling. I wrote this story in my very small apartment in Paris. When I saw my name next to Russell Crowe on the net, it was amazing."
Haggis based the lead character on himself:
I just sat down and said, “If I had to break the woman I love out of prison, how would I do it?” I’d go on the Internet, that’s the first thing I do. I’d Google “How to break out of prison.” So, that’s exactly what I did. I went on and Googled “How to break out of prison,” “How to break into a car,” and found these fascinating things, and I just used them. I figured that’s what he would do. I also knew I would fail spectacularly, at least at first. But then I would continue. And I’d get the shit beat out of me, and I would trust the wrong people, and I would do the wrong things. I’d start to feel really good about myself, that I’d figured the whole thing out, and then something would go wrong. I would just keep going until I either was caught or we got out or something happened. That’s what he does. So, I just tried to make him an everyman. I loved the fact that this guy was also an English teacher, so he was a romantic. He was talking about Don Quixote. He’s got this whole romanticized vision of how you sacrifice yourself for a woman, how you go about something like this. It’s terribly romanticized and so completely impractical.
In October 2009, Haggis and his staff were in the principal photography stage of production filming in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On October 4, 2009, filming of the movie was ongoing and was set to complete on December 12, 2009. On December 14, 2009, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that filming of The Next Three Days was going to wrap that day, after 52 days of shooting.
In October 2009, the film was originally scheduled to be released in 2011, by March 2010, the Australian media company Village Roadshow was set to release the film in Australia in November 2010. It was released in the United States on November 19, 2010.
The Next Three Days received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 52% based on review from 161 critics, with an average score of 5.9/10. The critical consensus is: "Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks give it their all, but their solid performances aren't quite enough to compensate for The Next Three Days' uneven pace and implausible plot."
Roger Ebert awarded the film two and a half out of four stars and said, "The Next Three Days is not a bad movie; it's just somewhat of a waste of the talent involved."
The film opened at #5 with a weekend gross of $6,542,779 from 2,564 theaters for an average of $2,552 per theater. It closed on January 6, 2011, having earned $21,148,651 domestically. The film grossed a further $46,300,000 overseas, for a worldwide total gross of $67,448,651, making it a modest success against its $30 million budget.