Many movies are about examining the lengths one will go to in order to save someone we love. That could mean fighting the pharmaceutical/medical/insurance industries for a treatment that will save a child, it could mean plowing through the ranks of French soldiers during the French-Indian War to save a woman after promising to find her no matter the cost, it could mean simply standing up and doing what’s right in the face of some sort of authority that’s trying to sweep an incident under the rug.
The Next Three Days tells just such a story. An everyday family is torn apart when the wife (Elizabeth Banks) is suddenly arrested for murder, is convicted and ultimately sent to prison for that crime. After a few years have gone by her husband (Russell Crowe) realizes his wife is not going to make it through the rest of her sentence. So he works up a plan to break her out of prison and enlists the help of a criminal who escaped himself (Liam Neeson) to help him formulate that plan, including how it’s going to impact the couple’s young son.
The first poster for the movie features a collection of photographs, maps, drawings and notes that have pinned up and wall and which roughly form Crowe’s face, with the title and the copy “Lose who you are to save what you love” at the bottom.
It’s a visually interesting one-sheet, but honestly comes off more like a stalker’s shrine wall than where he’s planning how he will break his wife out of prison. It’s look what you’d see when you first discover where some creep was plotting an assassination more than anything.
The second poster was a little better, at least in terms of selling the story behind the movie. The copy “What if you had 72 hours to save everything you live for” at least gives the audience an idea that Crowe is the protagonist in the story and not the victim or creepy stalker.
The burnt orange look to the image combined with Crowe’s feathered hair and huge sunglasses kind of give the impression that this is a 70’s throwback design, which doesn’t really match up with anything else in the campaign even if it is a more interesting look than had been used on the previous poster.
A third and final poster once again used Crowe’s head as the main design element, only this time it’s partly transparent and within it you can see he and Banks running through a subway station. And instead of a bright orange 1976 aura about it this one features a more somber and serious gray color scheme
This one probably works the best of the collection since it simply lays out the movie’s premise simply and in the most clear manner of the entire set. We get that Crowe’s character is very serious and pondering something that is likely life changing. And we get that the main focus of the movie is on the chase that he and Banks will be engaged in.
The trailer opens, as many such spots do, by showing us just what a loving family it is that’s at the heart of the story. Crowe’s a good dad and Banks is a loving mother who takes daily pictures of them all. But then the police break up breakfast and she’s in jail. We see her attempt suicide, which leads to his seeking out Neeson, an escaped convict who warns him not to start down this road if he’s unwilling to commit fully and do things he finds morally wrong, which of course he is in order to bring his wife back.
The rest if car and foot chases as we see Crowe is successful in his attempts to get her out, it’s what comes after that which proves a bit trickier as they attempt to allude the increasingly tight police net that’s being dropped.
The trailer is good enough but spells out the entire movie, leaving little but the last 10 minutes in doubt for the audience. We see he’s able to become a bad person and that that pays off by him getting his wife out so very little is left to the imagination. I’m sure that’s by design as the goal here seems to be to make the audience feel as familiar and comfortable as possible with the product before they make the decision to go see it.
The movie’s official website opens with a bunch of full screen video that’s pulled from the trailer before eventually stopping and allowing the trailer itself to play in full.
The first section here is “Story,” which gives a decent one-paragraph overview of the movie’s plot as well as the names of those involved. Further credits and more background information on those folks, both the cast and crew, can be found in “Cast/Crew.”
“Video” has the movie’s Trailer as well as one TV Spot and the “Gallery” has about 20 stills from the movie.
There are also a couple contests on the site. Plan Your Escape lets you enter to win a vacation trip or you can win a Vizio TV by making a personalized music video for a song by Moby that’s featured in the movie and on the soundtrack.
The film’s Facebook page immediately prompts you to Like it in order to unlock whatever content is hidden behind that barrier. On the main page are updates as to the film’s marketing and publicity efforts as well as the usual collection of videos and photos. The movie also had its own YouTube channel where they put the trailer, TV spots and extended clips.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There was quite a bit of advertising done for the movie, all of it selling the movie as a dramatic chase film.
TV spots, of which there were two or three by my count, all basically re-cut and condensed the trailer, including the scene between Crowe and Neeson. There’s little in the way of setup, dispensing with the scene-setting of the family being all together and instead focusing on the planning of the escape and then the escape and chase themselves. They’re tight spots that present the movie as a hopefully entertaining option at the theater for people looking for something that’s not going to challenge them all that much but instead just keep their heart pounding.
Online ads mostly, based on what I saw, on the third poster, with images of Crowe’s transparent head showing up on a number of sites and in other places.
Media and Publicity
It’s not surprising that Banks was one of the first of the major players to get profiled (Los Angeles Times, 10/31/10) in advance of the movie, especially since taking on such a dramatic role is a little out of the norm for the actress, who’s primarily known for her comedic work though she has more serious credits as well.
The cast also made the rounds of talk-shows and other outlets to get the word out and make their appearances. Occasionally Crowe put his foot in his mouth, but that’s to be expected with the actor just about any time he goes out and hob-nobs with the press.
As I said about one of the posters above, the overall campaign works to make sure the audience knows that there’s little that’s going to challenge them in this movie. Most everything presents it as a safe bet with lots of drama and even a little action for people to enjoy. There’s nothing cutting edge at all about this campaign as it plays it safe on just about every front in order to convey that message of it being an essentially known quantity. Some of the posters get a little interesting in their design but that’s about as risky as anything gets.
I like that the campaign found some consistency in the home stretch as the online ads and other materials all sort of rallied around that third poster, though the look of the minimally-stocked website then recalls the first one-sheet. So it’s a good campaign in terms of selling the movie to a middle-of-the-road audience but certainly nothing to get all excited about.