Length: 122 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
Budget: $30 million
Box Office: $65 million (21 U.S., 39 Intl., 5 DVD)
Written and Directed by: Paul Hagis (Wrote/Directed In the Valley of Elah and Crash, wrote Quantum of Solace, letters from Iwo Jima, Casino Royale, Flags of our Fathers, and Million Dollar Baby), based on the French screenplay “Pour elle” by Fred Cavaye and Guillaume Lemans
Starring: Russel Crowe
With: Elizabeth Banks and Liam Neeson
A devoted husband is convinced his wife is innocent of the murder of her boss and when her final appeal fails, he concocts a plan to break her out of prison so they and their young son Luke can flee to a foreign country and live out their lives.
Entertainment Value: B
As you would expect from the guy who wrote Crash and the new Bond films, this is both intricate and action-packed. As a suspence/action/thriller, it’s quite good, and the final implementation of the plan doesn’t disappoint. But I really hated what it made me think about in terms of unjust incarceration and the idea of losing access to my wife (or my own family if it happened to me). Also, as my wife noted, the entire premise of “let’s risk everything to be together in spite of the even greater risk that our child will be raised by foster parents because we get killed or both wind up in jail” is hard to take seriously.
Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity A-, Violence C, Language C
Several drug dealers are in the film, but no drugs are used. No real sexuality to mention. Language and violence are the big issues, including people being beaten up and some being shot and killed. Language is isn’t that heavy, but does certainly qualify for the PG-13 rating.
Significant Content: D
The basic idea of this film is that true devotion means doing whatever it takes to rescue the damsel in the distress of jail. Also, from the literature professor who teaches Don Quixote (a hopeless but inspirational idealism), we learn that the notion of being rational is a prison and that any life not of our own making is by definition not free. It’s also got a hefty anti-capital punishment message since she’s innocent but convicted. But where this films goes so tragically wrong, as I mentioned before is the vigilante nature of the solution and the immense (and likely) risk that the child will wind up losing both parents rather than just one.
Artistic/Thought Value: C
Some of the questions raised about loyalty and rationality are interesting, in addition to the issue of what to do about a societal injustice and the finality of the death penalty. But mostly, this is a thriller, not a thinker. However, I did like several of the plausibility failures built into the plot to show that this isn’t just a superhero type vigilante movie, but a real person taking these risks.
~Liam Neeson asks Crowe to carefully consider whether he’s really willing to do whatever it will take to succeed in this endeavor. Why is it important to count the cost before we undertake a project like this?
~Do you think Crowe makes the right choice regarding his wife and his son? What would you want your spouse to do?
~What things does this movie do to make you want him to succeed? Does it do anything to make you not want to? Is it virtuous to hope he succeeds? What do you think is the Biblical advice to someone in his situation?
~What insight, if any, does this movie give you about the validity of the death penalty?
Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The lawyer being grilled about his faith in the wife’s innocence.
~Getting beat up by the scam artists.
~The decision moment to leave without the kid or not.
Overall Grade: C
A decent suspense thriller based on a pretty flimsy premise. If you love this concept of devotion to the woman, a far better version is the wonderful “Priceless” or the somewhat older “Timecop.”