The Brennan family seemingly has a strong bond but their lives are shattered when the police break into their home and arrest Lara for suspicion of murder. With the police finding a blood sample on her jacket which matched the victim, who happened to be her boss with whom she had quarreled, Lara is transferred to jail with little hope of seeing a release. John, who never stops believing in his wife’s innocence, continues to spend all of his savings and selling his possessions to fund her criminal defense. Three years after her incarceration, the money has nearly run out and her lawyer has lost hope of winning the case. John fears for his wife and the shattered relationship with her son. As the problems continue to mount, he decides to act out of desperation and find a way to break her out. After meeting with a former escapee (Damon Pennington), he begins his research and invests his money into developing his breakout plan. When he learns that she is officially getting transferred to prison in three days, he speeds up his plan to set her escape in motion.
Starring: Russell Crowe (John Brennan), Elizabeth Banks (Lara Brennan), Michael Buie (Mick Brennan), Moran Atias (Erit), Remy Nozik (Jenna), Olivia Wilde (Nicole), Ty Simpkins (Luke), Jason Beghe (Detective Quinn), Aisha Hinds (Detective Collero), Leslie Merrill (Elizabeth Gesas)
With a dramatic performance by Russell Crowe, the film maintains a somber feel from nearly the start through the escape attempt. Crowe projects the stress of a man who believes in his spouse but is visibly hopeless in finding a solution. He never truly appears full of confidence, even when he ramps up his attempt to pull off the escape. While Elizabeth Banks generally takes on comedic roles, she flexes a bit of her dramatic muscle being taken from a loving family to her jail for a crime she claims she did not commit. The stress and distress of jail is apparent in his presentation of her character, desperate for love from her son and beginning to lose faith in her feelings about her innocence. Her son, played by Ty Simpkins, shows a sense of the effect on children when parents are involved in legal troubles. His detachment from his mother and obedience with his father shows the importance of dichotomy when each parent maintains different levels of presence. Jason Beghe and Aisha Hinds help to serve as the detectives investigating the case, never fully understanding the perception of the case being so clean cut. Both detectives also seem persistent in watching over Crowe because of their suspicion of his activities.
This film by Paul Haggis highlights mostly the effects of legal woes on the family outside of jail, similar to that of the Nothing But the Truth but from the other side. The evidence in the case seems very clear cut. Lara had been fighting with her boss, which had been observed by a number of other employees. She had been in the parking lot on the night of her boss’s death and wound up with a spot of blood on her rain jacket. Though it appeared that she may not have seen the body, a bystander observed her get into her car, drive away and leave behind her boss laying on the ground next to the space she had just vacated. John represents the devoted husband, refusing to think for even a second that his wife could commit such an act. Willing to run himself into the ground to rescue her from jail, his condition, both emotionally and mentality, deteriorates from the stress of working full time and pressing forward in supporting her defense.
John’s plan to break Lara out of jail comes out of a conversation with an escapee who was successful in his breakout. Certainly appearing confident, his life seems no better than John’s. Liam Neeson represents Damon as desperate for cash and somewhat resentful for his success with his escape. John then goes on a plan to get money, gather supplies and look for his plan of attack of an extremely well-crafted jail. His plan works for the sake of an entertaining story in a film but is seemingly unrealistic in that he leaves himself wide open for constant surveillance and suspicions of conspiracy to break the law. He becomes so desperate that he purchases a gun and tries to bully the thugs that stole from him. When he is in the middle of his escape attempt, he is forced to get past multiple levels of security between the hospital, border control and airport security. He attempts to live by a prescribed time limit discussed by Damon but also gets significant leeway when his plans do not go as projected.
While there are some intense moments and clever planning in the escape attempt, the film plays mostly to a flat, depressing overtone that attempts to highlight the pressure put on a family challenged by a legal battle. Crowe and Banks help to give a little life to the story but this is not either of their best performances. The escape is clever but a little too unbelievable for someone who may be intelligent but actually extremely lucky that he goes almost completely unnoticed.
Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5