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Proof Of Life  

Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe)
Alice Bowman (Meg Ryan)
Peter Bowman (David Morse)
Dino (David Caruso)
Janis Goodman (Pamela Reed)
Directed by Taylor Hackford Written by Tony Gilroy. Based on the article “Adventures in the Ransom Trade” by William Prochnau and the book Long March to Freedom by Thomas Hargrove.
Rated R for violence, language and drug material
Running Time: 135 minutes Distributed by Warner Brothers

Proof of Life
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Proof of Life is a smart and intact thriller. Alice (Ryan) and Peter Bowman (Morse) are a married couple that live in the Latin American country of Tecala. The couple is wealthy, but their marriage is fluttering with Alice wanting to move back to the states and her husband objecting until his work of building a damn in Tecala is complete. One morning, while the engineer Peter is on his way to work, organized terrorists kidnap him. The terrorists began informing Alice of a large ransom payment for the life of her husband. An obstacle is created with her husband’s company not paying for his insurance in cases like this. Leading to a dismay of back and forth obstacles, Alice gains the services of hostage negotiator Terry Thorne (Crowe). Thorne works for K& R, which stands for Kidnap and Ransom. His skills sharp and he works fast to negotiating proof of lifes of Peter and lowering the ransom payment. Meanwhile, Peter is stuck somewhere out in the mountains and is treated harshly as a prisoner by a group of dispensable mercenaries. As Peter fights to stay alive everyday, Terry works every moment to bring home alive. Time moves on and Terry and Alice engaged in a calm tension and chemistry between them. The more pressure the terrorists put on Peter and Alice, the closer Alice and Terry become.

Proof of Life is a good romantic thriller that is somewhat eye opening in the field of negotiation and kidnapping.

Tony Gilroy based his worthy screenplay off of stories of real-life hostage negotiations. He then included the relationship of Terry and Alice to add spice to the mixture. The story jumps back and forth from Terry and Alice’s negotiations to Peter’s life in the mountains. The help of other characters parallel the each's life. Examples are that Terry and Alice gain some insight from another hostage negotiator and friend of Terry’s named Dino (Caruso). On the other hand, Peter is helped mentally and physically by a fellow captive missionary (John). The balance of the story and the characters seem to work equally, even when Terry sometimes overshadows the other characters. There is really only one point in the film, which is very important in Terry’s negotiation that is just played out too easily. The incident seemed to just be thrown in the film, sort of as a cop-out.

Director Taylor Hackford does a precisely steady job of directing the film. He tones Peter’s life in the jungle and Alice’s situations, including Terry, with a balance blend of action and drama. Though most the film’s action takes place towards the end, I believe Hackford does a fine job of building tension towards the climax. I also learned that the director cut a steamy sex scene with Terry and Alice, who are played by Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan. He cut it to stop the speculation and complications surrounding the two performers, who had an affair with one another while filming Proof of Life. Though some moviegoers just might have bought a ticket to see the cut scene between Crowe and Ryan, I believe the film is better with it cut out. The deception is still there between Alice and Terry, but it isn’t pushed overboard, it is more substantial.

As for Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan, both deliver bold performances in this film. Crowe, who is red-hot off of his Gladiator success, has the smoothness in his quirks to become an icon like Sean Connery or Harrison Ford. In Proof of Life, the Australian actor uses his own accent, which not only gives his character more originality, but also doesn’t require the actor to study dialect. Alice is one of Meg Ryan’s most in-depth characters of her admirable career. Ryan’s terrific acting shows the stress, heartache, fear and tension in this character throughout the film. Outside of the two lead actors, David Morse is strong, as always, as the captive Peter Bowman. Also, the former NYPD Blue star, David Caruso delivers a worthy comeback performance as Terry’s long-time negotiator friend, Dino.

Proof of Life is a hectic and adventurous adult thriller that should be a crowd pleaser to most audiences. Hopefully, audiences will be able to pull Crowe and Ryan’s affair away from the characters of this film and watch it with an open mind, because the film is pretty interesting.

Report Card Grade: B

Beastman’s Movie Reviews
Copyright, 2000 Joseph C. Tucker

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