I was looking for a movie to watch that fit a theme I have been working on in my Tail of the Dragon novel when I saw that Paul Haggis had directed Russell Crow and Liam Neeson in a story that explores what happens when the law is not necessarily your friend, when the system is turned against you completely. That story is called The Next Three Days.
Paul Haggis was the screenwriter for a couple of Eastwood films that I love, Million Dollar Baby and Flags of our Fathers. He also had a writing credit for Terminator Salvation. Haggis also directed Crash, which was brilliant, so another film directed by him was something I was not going to miss.
I’m not going to reveal the details of this film. It is full of surprises and it’s a wonderful film. In the film, I can’t blame the decisions Russell Crow’s character made. It asks the hard questions like, how valid is “the law?” Is our legal system just? What is right and what is wrong and do they hold true if the perspective shifts?
I think we have become too reliant on law enforcement much in the same way as we have with teachers. We expect the police to keep us safe, which is unrealistic, because police really aren’t much of a deterrent. All they can really do is show up after a crime has been committed and build a case hoping that they can gather enough evidence to find the bad guy and bring about justice.
I don’t think the ineffectiveness of police officers in preventing crime is worth the freedoms we give up to have them. In a scene of the film shown in the preview where the police break down the door to Russell Crows home and came into his house forcefully, I became infuriated. I can say that if the same thing happened at my home, someone would have ended up hurt. There isn’t a force on earth, no gun, no club, no taser, nothing that would allow me to submit to a forceful entry into my home against my will. Property in America is everything, and when law enforcement can enter your property for the “greater goods security” then there simply isn’t any freedom.
In a lot of ways, that’s what The Next Three Days was all about. It took most of the film to arrive at that message, which doesn’t make it a bad film at all, but the movie was certainly targeted at the types of suburbanites that live around Paul in Santa Monica, a town that lives in its own insulated reality. So the characters in the film go through the transition that if they want freedom, they must take it. Nobody is going to give it to them. If they trust the legal system, it will let them down, just like education does. There is no easy fix.
I mention the film here because movies are a way to explore ideas, and a film like The Next Three Days is one of those types of films that everyone should see, then consider what they would do if they found themselves in the same situation. I suspect many people would do the disgraceful thing, and that’s to accept the rule of law, move on with another spouse, and live a nice safe life.
But, as shown in The Next Three Days, the law is only as good as the people who run it. If the lawyers, prosecutors, Supreme Court, and cops are lazy, and they are, because they’re government workers, then there is always a chance to become a victim to their complacency. So when that happens do you just take it and let their incompetence ruin your life?
I say no. It might have taken the characters 3 years to get to the point that I would have been at within a few hours, but the merit is still what it is, that when a force of any size, or complexity threatens your sovereignty, then war to defend your position is perfectly justified. It is in fact demanded.
That’s why I recommend watching this film and asking the question, how effective is law enforcement? Is it what we really want? Does it represent what being an American is all about, or are we willing to toss those ideas away in favor of an imperfect pursuit of safety.