on June 17, 2004
Peter Bowman (David Morse) and his wife, Alice (Meg Ryan) have spent years living in third world countries. At first, Alice loved it and immersed herself in the different cultures, trying to learn the language and anything else she could about the people she was living among. But she is starting to resent their life. Peter is an engineer, building a dam in the (fictional) country of Tecala in South America. He is running into a lot of problems on the site and just doesn't have time to deal with Alice and her insecurities at that time. Their relationship is stretched to the breaking point and seems ready to snap at any moment when the unthinkable happens and Peter is kidnapped off of a busy street by a group of guerillas in broad daylight.
Panic stricken, Alice immediately turns to Peter's corporation to help and they send in Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe), an ex-soldier turned kidnap & ransom negotiator for a global firm that collects a commission for rescued hostages. Terry immediately takes charge of the situation and gives Alice hope that her husband will soon return to her. However, Terry has barely started working on the case when he is pulled. Turns out Peter's company was trying to cut costs so they cut the hostage insurance. With no means to pay Terry's exorbitant fee, Alice is left on her own. Burned out and disillusioned, Terry just wants a well-deserved break, but he cannot leave Alice to fight for her husband on her own, so he returns and takes the case for nothing.
Terry's hopes for a quick resolution are now gone because he doesn't have a corporation's money to rely upon. Instead, he has to rely on whatever cash Alice and Peter's family can raise and deal with the kidnappers on his own. As Alice and Terry struggle to come up with a plan to get Peter back safely, Peter is fighting just to stay alive. He is forced to hike over barren vistas and eventually ends up in a small encampment where other wealthy hostages are kept awaiting their paid ransoms. As the weeks stretch into months, Peter almost gives up hope of ever being rescued, his worn picture of Alice his only lifeline. Back in the city, Alice is desperately trying to fight her attraction to Terry and feeling guilty about it, especially with Peter's life on the line...
Proof of Life was an enjoyable film, but emotionally lacking. It was the premise of the movie that drew me in, the idea that there are still groups of people out there in third world countries who rely on kidnapping wealthy foreigners to make a living is just astonishing. I was a bit disappointed that there was not more background information and such included in the film as I think that would have made it more interesting. The actors did a fine job, for the most part, but I felt that there was no emotional connection between any of them. Russell Crowe was superb in his role as a kidnap & ransom negotiator and I totally bought him as an ex-soldier. He was definitely calm under pressure and I could even understand why he would not let himself get involved with Alice, even though he clearly wanted to. As another reviewer mentioned, there are lots of little details surrounding Crowe (his use of guns & knives) that made him seem like the real deal, even though he isn't. I didn't find myself feeling a whole heck of a lot for Meg Ryan or David Morse. Meg Ryan was just kind of empty for me. She was there, she took up space and was breathing, but I didn't ever connect with her character and the whole love triangle thing was hinging on her and she just didn't pull it through so I never really bought it. David Morse I flat out disliked at the beginning and, though I grew to like him more as the film progressed, I never really liked him all that much. It would have been better if director Taylor Hackford had gone in the action-adventure direction instead of a character-driven direction because these actors just weren't able to pull it off. Still, this movie has some stunning vistas of Ecuador and a few interesting moments with a great rescue scene at the end. Rent it at a time when nothing new has come out just so you can say that you've seen it...
on October 22, 2002
When I initially watched Proof of Life I was a little disappointed. I thought that the romantic subplot between Russell Crowe's and Meg Ryan's characters was underdevelopped. However, when I watched it again, I realized that there was more to this movie and the romance than I saw during my first viewing. The romance and interaction between the two leads was subtle, but that lended itself to the story in ways that more obvious romantic moments would not have. Terry (Crowe) is a man that gets a lot done without wasting words. His feelings for Alice (Ryan) are obvious because the things he does not say are more important than the things he does say. Understated is the word to describe the relationship between Terry and Alice, but that does not mean it's portrayal is ineffective.
In addition to excellent performances (espeically from Crowe and the supporting actors playing Dino and Peter - sorry, I can't remember their names at the moment) the action sequences are superb, and the insight into the relatively unheard of K&R business is unique. You don't find this information in any other films.
I've heard Proof of Life referred to as "the thinking man's action movie" and I'd have to agree. It does make you think. It has subtlety down to an art form and uses subtext as a key to unlocking the relationship between Terry and Alice.
On a side note, the DVD has a really interesting director's commentary. I am generally not a fan of direcor's commentary, but this one is very insightful and gives more information on K&R and the background of the story than could ever be put in a movie. In my opinion, the Director's Commentary is one of the highlights of the DVD.
on August 15, 2002
I have seen this movie countless times and I expect to watch it countless times more. If you have the DVd edition then you also get a detailed commentary by the director which, in my opinion, really adds to one's understanding of the movie and why it was made. It is based on the real-life kidnap experience of a westerner in Colombia. It is a fascinating look into the life of kidnap and ransom experts. This film has something for everyone - drama, suspense, just enough action to stop it becoming a war-film, and even a little romance, or the hint of it. What I really like about this movie is that there is no sex scene. I am sure that a lot of reviewers would have condemned this film for not having one, but I commend the director for not putting one in (actually there was one made for it but due to the real life relationshop between Ryan and Russal at the time, it was thought that it was in bad taste). You don't need to have a sex scene to pander to the audience and, after all, what is so wonderful about adultery anyhow??? I'm no prude. If you want sex then go buy an XXX movie, but know that it doesn't haveto be there in a main stream movie to make it an all time great!
on June 4, 2002
I just had a brief comment. This is another great Russell Crowe movie, who just seems to get better (if possible) with each new flick. Crowe has to be one of the best actors currently working, in an era when we don't seem to have the same kind of great screen actors and actresses of past eras.
Rather, in recent years we seem to have artificially hyped and pumped up celluloid pseudo-greats with no real substance, and often, no real acting ability. In the midst of this it's refreshing to have at least one actor of Crowe's ability around.
Having said that, I must say I do like Meg Ryan, and she and Crowe make a great on-screen pair here, as she turns in a fine performance herself as the wife of the kidnapped engineer and dam builder.
I won't go much into the plot, as others here have already done so, except to say that the movie, once it gets going (and it gets off to a quick start) is an intense, powerful, interesting, and believeable drama from beginning to end.
All in all a fine movie. Big Steve says go see it and don't "Bogart" the popcorn.
on January 16, 2002
I liked the movie quite a lot, there is quite a bit of tension, action at the end, and Russell Crowe was again amazing, Meg Ryan was O.k and David Morse was very good. And people who say it musn not be like this, or that don't know if the movie is realistic, well, it is very realistic, I live in Colombia and this is our everyday on the news, and the people who manage to return safely, tell the most awful stories of how their kidnapping was. Here in Colombia this movie was a bigger success than in U.S.A, amybe because in the States it was shadowed by the real life (Russell and Meg's affair) but here it came after that news and it was loved, no one complained about it being bias, it is not, it is very realistic, the reason I don't give it 5 stars is because in the movie they don't say Colombia but Tecala, a fake country, reviews said that it was, well it's not, the movie is based in Colombia, it has several Colombian actors who conformed the supporting cast, the towns and cities relly look like Colombian places, unlike movies like Romancing the Stone, Colombia looked like Mexico in that film, but on this one, although it wasn't shot in Colombia because of the situation here, it may as well pass as Colombia, and the story is very realistic, the ELN, not ELT like in the movie, and Las Farc here do all thoose things to people and worst, actually the film might be too soft, but some things are too crude for Hollywood, but nevertheless, this is an excellent way for people in U.S.A to see what we live through every day, just replace Tecala for Colombia, ELT for ELN and you are set for ean entertaining and educational movie.
on July 13, 2002
Meg Ryan's husband is working as an engineer in a ficticious Latin American Country. He is working on building a power plant out in the jungle, right in the middle of an area where cocaine is grown. He is kidnapped by gueirellas. Years ago the guerellas had a political agenda. They sold cocaine to finance their army. Now theire only agenda is to make money from selling cocaine. Russell Crowe plays a risk management consultant specializing in very high risk hostage negotioations. His job is to rescue Meg Ryan's husband. In the end, I wished for more resolution between Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan.
on April 1, 2004
Writer Tony Gilroy took his inspiration for "Proof of Life" from a 1998 "Vanity Fair" article entitled "Adventures in the Ransom Trade" by William Prochneu. About 25,000 people are kidnapped and held for ransom every year. It's big business is some parts of the world. And just as there are professional kidnappers, there is a counter-industry of professional kidnap and ransom (K&R) consultants who specialize in getting the kidnap victims back at a (sort of) reasonable price. That's fascinating, and it sounds like an ideal subculture in which to situate a movie. Unfortunately, "Proof of Life" gives us little insight into the kidnap and ransom business and a whole lot of weak story.
Peter Bowman (David Morse) is an idealistic engineer who is in a fictional South American country to build a dam for an oil company that wants to barter the humanitarian project for permission to build an oil pipeline. When he is kidnapped and held for ransom by a guerilla group, a kidnap and ransom specialist named Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe) is retained by Bowman's employer to secure his release. Bowman's wife Alice (Meg Ryan) works closely with Thorne through the ups and downs of complicated negotiations designed to secure her husband's safe return.
"Proof of Life"s "hook" should be in the details of the "K&R" business. But, instead, the film tries to make the supposed tension between Alice and Terry Thorne its emotional focus. Trouble is, there is no tension. In spite of their much-publicized on-set romance, Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan have absolutely no on-screen chemistry. The script is terrible, and Meg Ryan isn't up to the task of making it work. She is utterly unconvincing as a distraught wife. If Alice isn't distraught, then perhaps she feels guilty for not missing her husband enough. Nope. Alice doesn't even come across as being stressed. The only thing notable at all about this character is her coiffure. Meg Ryan's 20 different shades of blonde, strategically placed among her never-a-hair-out-of-place 'do give the impression that this woman is coping with her husband's abduction by sitting in a chair at the beauty parlor 4 hours a day. I have nothing against movie stars looking like movie stars, but Ryan's hair style is so conspicuous that it made me laugh. Some natural-looking tousled curls would have been more keeping with her "little hippy" character and supposedly aggrieved state of mind. On a more positive note, David Morse is convincing as a kidnap victim. And Russell Crowe gives a fine performance in spite of weak dialogue. He is wonderfully charismatic as SAS veteran Terry Thorne, a consummate professional who feels unusually conflicted on this case. David Caruso is spotty in his supporting role as a fellow K&R guy. And Pamela Reed gives a nice performance as Peter's overbearing sister.
I hope that someone in Hollywood comes up with a good K&R script at some point. I'd love to see the movie. But I can only recommend "Proof of Life" to big Russell Crowe fans. I think his performance here is more imposing than in "Gladiator", although it's simply not as nuanced a role as in "L.A. Confidential" or "Master & Commander".
on February 27, 2004
"Proof of Life" is a fine little romatic thriller. Russel Crowe plays a corperate sponcered mercenary assigned to rescue kidnapped engineer David Morse. The company Morse works for fires him to avoid paying kidnapping insurance, and Crowe is sent home. Crowe then returns (on vacation) and helps Morses wife, Meg Ryan, to rescue the missing man. Ryan and Crowe seem to flirt a lot with real chemistry. The fact that they don't have any romantic scenes (except for a brief kiss) is very interesting, and I liked it; kind of a 'what could have been' situation. All the actors are very good. Ryan is pretty and worries just right. Crowe is the Rambo of the picture, and he dose it pretty well. David Curuso is campy and over the top, I loved his role. David Morse is the quiet hero; while he isn't the action hero Crowe is, he is calm, cool under fire, and holds up well to the stress. I liked him. The movie is pitched as both a romantic drama and an action thriller. Well, there isn't a lot of action; though what is there is well done. The romantic story is mostly implied, there isn't that much there to hold up a love story. Over all it is a good movie.
on January 22, 2004
I've made my living since 1992 testing and evaluating guns, and writing articles for gun magazines. Gun people tend to loath most action movies, since they rarely get the technical details correct. Proof of Life is an exception to that rule.
To start with, Proof of Life totally avoids one of my biggest pet peeves about guns in movies, what I call the "aiming indicator," that ka-chack! sound guns make every time they're aimed at anyone. The director and sound people obviously feel this is very dramatic, and says, "Hey! Someone is actually aiming a gun here!" In real life, guns don't do that. And they don't in Proof of Life, either.
Terry Thorne's (Russell Crowe's) carry gun is a compact 1911 .45 auto (I'm morally certain it's a Kimber Ultra Compact, he said in full gun geek mode), a bit of an unusual choice for an ex-SAS guy. The SAS have traditionally been poster children for the Browning Hi-Power, and then transitioned over to the SIG P226. Granted, Terry's now a civilian so he can carry anything he wants (and at least the 1911 has much same manual of operations as the Hi-Power) but it's not a situation where you instantly look at the gun the character's carrying and say, "Ah yes, these people got it right." But hang in there, good stuff is to come.
When Terry finds Peter in the base camp, he gives him his 1911 for protection, telling him, "Okay, here's the safety, up is Safe, down is Fire." This is totally correct. Later, Peter tries to shoot a terrorist who's threatening Terry but can't make the gun fire. After Terry deals with the bad guy, he walks up to Peter, reaches around to the side of the gun, flicks off the thumb safety, and says, "Now the safety's off." Excellent! What a pleasure to see a scene in a Hollywood movie revolve around a decent knowledge of a gun's technical features.
Later, Peter actually uses Terry's 1911 to save both their lives. He can do this because Terry's placed the gun off-Safe. We have sound effects for eight shots. Again, this is correct. This sort of gun does hold eight rounds. The only small goofs here I might point out are that we hear the sound of the eighth shot while the camera angle shows Peter from behind, and the gun's slide is already locked to the rear; obviously the piece is empty. This is a problem. Then a moment later, we transition to a face-on shot to see Peter's expression - and now the slide is forward. A little sloppy, but still small stuff compared to the overall excellence of the scene.
In the firefight at the base camp, even one of the good guy team, with a far higher level of training than the bad guys, begins firing his assault rifle full auto. By contrast, Terry, ex-SAS, and Dino (David Caruso in fine form), ex-Delta Force, maintain fire discipline and fire their M4s in one- and two-shot bursts. In his director's commentary, Taylor Hackford mentions that Russell Crowe is very weapons knowledgeable, and had definite opinions on how he should handle his M4 in these scenes. It shows.
One other small thing I truly enjoyed. There are two moments in the base camp firefight scene where we see people killed with knives. One of Dino's mercenaries has to use a knife on a guy, and his weapon is what we'd expect from Hollywood, a big, macho, serrated blade fighting knife. By contrast, watch Terry (Russell) do the same thing, notice what he uses: the knife blade from a Leatherman Tool. Low-key, no-BS, effective. What do you want to bet that little detail came from Russell Crowe, as well? Good job, Russell!
on January 22, 2004
Having raved about the excellent technical detail in this movie, I suppose I should also address the one thing - though it's not a gun fact - that's "fake." In the latter parts of the film, a para-military team sets out to rescue Peter Bowman (David Morse) from a terrorist base camp. The camo jobs the actors have on their faces, for anyone who's every been in the military, are kind of laughable. Most of them have only a few streaks of camo. Now, I understand the director, and actors, feel it's important we be able to see the expressions on the actors' faces, versus having them covered with real, useful, full-coverage camo jobs - but it's still silly. The purpose of facial camo is to break up the pattern of light and dark that says "human face" to any enemy who might glimpse it. The almost-not-there camo jobs on the actors' face in these scenes don't do that. The SAW gunner (played by a real-life West Point graduate) is the only one who actually has on full camo, but even then it's a series of light and dark stripes. This "tiger stripe" camo job, although it looks cool, is something my Army drill sergeants warned us against since it actually makes the face stand out MORE in the boonies. What you really want is to put light camo in the areas of the face that are normally shadowed (eye sockets, under the nose, under the chin), and dark camo on areas that normally reflect light (forehead, cheekbones, jawbone). Basically, a good woodland camo job makes you look like a green Halloween skull, but light where you'd expect dark and vice versa.