Elfman's third score from 2010 was for Paul Haggis' underrated "The Next Three Days". The movie is about how far a husband (Russell Crowe) is willing to go to get his wife (Elisabeth Banks) out of jail for a crime he doesn't believe she committed. Crowe gives a touching and strong performance. That helps me understand his situation and why he's risking everything to free his wife. I enjoy the movie though it's at times depressing. By the end of the movie it does have me questioning myself whether I would go to such lengths as John Brennan (Crowe's character) did to get somebody I love and care about away from prison. The rest of the cast gave believable performances as well. I think it's a great movie that should've gotten more attention. I guess that what when you open the same weekend a Harry Potter movie opens. Out of the movies Elfman scored that year TN3D was definitely the best movie. What's funny from the trailers I was expecting a typical action thriller, but I felt I got more than that coming out of the theatre.
Elfman wrote a touching and melancholic driven score. It's not really a melodic score, though it has different motifs for the Brennan and his inner conflict. It's a textural score that captures the complexities of the John's situations in the film, imo. The score is able to fulfill the psychology, burden, guilt and turmoil of John Brennan and how far he's willing to go to save someone he loves. Elfman does a superb job emphasising the consequences of some of John's actions that causes him to break the law. This score isn't a typical Danny Elfman score. Don't expect a gothic, quirky, bizarre, whimsical, and heroic score. This is a very mature score dealing with the realistic subject matter in the score it shouldn't be surprising that Elfman would write something out of his comfort zone.
A few tracks about why I feel Elfman's score is riveting and gripping in the film and cd...
Starting with the first track "Prologue" which opens the movie, of course. It begins very somber and tense as the scene itself. Though in the movie you don't really know what's going on. Except that it's night and you can hear gunfire and a car tire screeching on the road. As well as what sounds like a dying man grunting and crying for a hospital in the backseat of the car. Then we see Crowe's character (John) is the one driving the car. He turns to the victim, which is unseen, as he stops breathing and dies. The track really nails John's grim situation. I feel the cue is asking me "how did John end up here? Let's go back to how it lead to this moment". Then it takes the audience back three years ago before his wife was arrested. At 0:47 one of the recurring motifs is introduced. To me that's basically John Brennan's emotional theme. It really nails his guilt of this situation and many other's through out the film and score.
“A Way In”, which takes place in the middle of the film, opens very enchanting and serene. As John plans and plans his wife’s escape. And tries to find "a way in" a van. He starts following and observing a med health lab van. The reason he’s following the van b/c it has blood work information on inmates. He times how long it takes the driver to deliver the deliveries at a stop from and back to the van. Then later John looks on the internet to find ways to break in vehicles without causing any damage. The music gets a little intense and apprehensive as the next day or so John breaks in the van. The reason for the tension in the music is that he has less than two minutes to find what he’s looking for before the driver returns. We find out that John is looking for blood work info on his wife, who’s diabetic. He takes a photo of the info with his cell phone. Then leaves the van in the nick of time. That info will be crucial to his plan later in the film. I like this track b/c it captures John’s determination of putting together a flawless plan for his wife’s escape. This cue does a masterful job accentuating how much John immerses himself into his plan.
“What She’s Lost” is a short, but moving, track that plays another recurring theme or motif (which was featured in the beginning of the “Prologue” track) that signifies John’s and his son Luke’s loss which is time without Lara (Elisabeth Banks). It even captures Lara’s emotional pain of being locked up and away from her family for so long and possibly for life. Especially for a crime that she claims she didn’t commit though the evidence proves otherwise. I guess that could be considered John’s emotional theme or the Brennan family emotional theme. The piano gives it a very woeful feeling. This cues takes place in the film as the story takes place a few months or maybe even a year after Lara was locked up. The cue begins as Lara’s being searched for hidden weapons and such after a visit from her family. She watches hopelessly as John and Luke are leaving through the blinds. Then it shows John watching his son at the playground, who doesn’t seem happy or wanting to play for obvious reasons. I like this track b/c that theme gives a sense of loss. Throught this motif I can only imagine what John must feel, which is wanting to desperately do something about getting Lara out of prison, but certain laws are limiting him from doing so.
“Don Quixote” takes place in a classroom as John is teaching his students about “The Life & Times Of Don Quixote” and what it’s really about. He brings up “virtue”, “rational thought”, and “reality”. Thats when John decides to take the path that he will go to help his wife escape prison. It begins very solemn with the piano. Then musically shows how reflective (as the scene itself does) the message of Don Quixote is to John’s own predicament. I like how the music (at 0:52) again captures John resolution to figuring out a way to free his wife as he searches for prison books in a library. He later comes across a book by a escaped convict (played by Liam Neeson in a cameo), who escaped prison seven times. John sets up an interview to meet him. That piece that plays at 0:52 is another recurring motif that plays as John is setting his plans in motion. I like to call it John’s determination theme, where he decides to take action. I like this track b/c this is where John decides to take matters into his own hands since his other legal attempts of freeing his wife have failed. Therefore he’s taking a path where there won't be any turning back from. No matter the cost.
“All Is Lost” which is a track title Elfman used for “Terminator Salvation”, opens very sorrowful. It takes place after John finds out from his attorney that Lara is never getting out b/c of what the evidence shows. So John visits Lara to break the heartbreaking news. As Lara approaches the visiting phone booth she already knows that her case was thrown out again by just looking at John’s emotional face. It’s a very depressing moment. John’s emotional theme capitalizes John’s turmoil of not being able to do anything legally to free his wife. Listening to this track I can imagine Lara’s conflict and frustration of being isolated from her family for the rest of her life in a prison cell. I can’t help but feel sorry for both John and Lara in that moment. When the piano kicks in (as John visits his relatives to give them the terrible news) the music feels a little confident as John tries to take his mind off of it by spending time with his relatives. As well as when John reads Lara’s letter to his son. I found the track very emotional and stirring that even tugs the heart strings, imo.
“Last Three Months” feels very pressing as time’s running out, but at the same time it feels casual for the character. As it’s kind of a normal thing for him to visit his wife and later planning her escape. He takes photos, observe surveillance cameras and security, etc. I love the use of the electric guitars in it. The guitar riffs are sort of reminiscent of Elfman’s underrated “The Kingdom” guitar riffs. I like that I can hear the motif (John’s determination motif) used here as it was used when John was searching for information at the library (“Don Quixote”) . Though it’s more subtlety used here. Again b/c John’s putting his plan together. The track closes cautiously as it approaches night and as John tries to get illegal passports from the wrong kind of people.
“A Warning” begins very tense and uneasy as John leaves the facility that’s holding his wife. The reason why b/c he almost got caught for using a bump key to open one of the doors. It got botched once the bump key broke as John tried to turn it. Afterwards every visitor was questioned including John. He was then sent off with a warning. John then rushes to the exit and begins vomiting at a corner. The cop that arrested his wife happens to walk pass him and starts being suspicious of John. The officer begins investigating John. The taut music opening the cue explores John's guilt. John’s emotional theme gets very heart wrenching and dejected as his personal life seems to crumble around him. The music gives me the sense of the sacrifice John is making to continue pursuing his plan of freeing his wife. It’s a frustrating time for John b/c there’s a key missing in his plan. I feel with music at that moment that things may not be looking good for him financially and personally, but it won’t discourage from saving his wife. I like how hopeful the track concludes as John refuses to give up no matter the conflicts he’s ran into. He just has to find “the key” “to make his plan come together.
“Breakout” is a propulsive and adrenaline pumping track. That takes place as John breaks Lara out. This eight minute or so track captures the dangers, thrills, and intensity of this scene. I love the use of some of the recurring motifs that I’ve mentioned earlier making appearances. This track feels like a cat and mouse game between Mr. and Mrs Brennan and the police. It’s very suspenseful and has me on edge every time. It’s very well executed both the scene and cue. Elfman really heightens the tension as the track nears it’s conclusion. Listening to this (as well as looking at the actual scene) you can feel John’s plan coming together. If you like the action music in Elfman's Wanted you’ll enjoy this track. It’s up there with some of Elfman’s best action cues, imo.
“The Truth” is easily the best track on the album, imho. I also believe it’s one of the best cues of 2010. It’s very effective in the actual scene. I don’t want to get too much into the scene itself. I’ll just say the cop that arrested Lara starts piecing together the murder she was arrested for in his head. And comes to his conclusion what he believes happened. The piano and especially the vocals (by Ayana Haviv) are very moving. For a score that’s full of melancholy it’s nice to have a peaceful, pleasant, and gratifying track like this. “The Truth” definitely isn’t something I’d expect from Elfman. I’d place this cue right up there with Elfman’s “Finale” from "The Kingdom". That probably isn’t saying much for some b/c that score is hated by many except me. In 2010 many have praised the cue that played at end of "Inception", which was Hans Zimmer’s “Time”. That’s a nice track and all but this track is my “Time”. The way people praise and gush all over “Time” is how feel about this particular cue. I place this up there with some of Elfman's best cues.
I think Elfman’s The Next Three Days is an underrated gem. One of the most underrated scores of 2010, imo. I also find the film very underrated. I’m glad Haggis took a risk with Elfman. I heard he and his regular collaborator Mark Isham had a falling out, which I’m not commending. Alberto Iglesias was then set to score it but then got rejected I believe. I might be wrong but I remember IMDb had him credited as composer before Elfman came on board. I'm very pleased with what Elfman brought to the film. Can't imagine this film without his score. This film allowed Elfman to get out of his comfort zone. I bet a lot of people didn’t know he wrote the music to this movie. Let alone heard of the movie itself. This score proves just like “The Kingdom“ and “Taking Woodstock” did that Elfman can do more than write for gothic, dark, and spooky fantasy movies and superhero movies. It’s a shame this score didn’t get the attention “The Wolfman (2010)” and “Alice In Wonderland (2010)” got that year. I recommend the film and score to anyone. I thinks it attributes a lot to the film emotionally. I hope Haggis and Elfman team up on future projects. I believe both made a great and unique team.