Proof Of Life

on December 08, 2000 by Francesca Dinglasan
   Based on a 1998 Variety Fair article entitled "Adventures in the Ransom Trade," "Proof of Life" details the fascinating big business dealings behind the world of K&R (kidnapping and ransom) that reportedly victimize as many as 50,000 people annually. A well-paced drama buoyed by exceptional performances, the film offers an intelligent alternative to the blow-'em-all-to-hell trope that seems to have become the standard in bigscreen action flicks.

   Peter Bowman (David Morse) is an American engineer constructing a dam in the fictional South American country of Tecala. He and his wife Alice (Meg Ryan) are going through a particularly tough time in their marriage when he is taken hostage by an anti-government guerrilla group. Professional hostage negotiator Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe) is called in by Peter's company to assist in securing the victim's safe return, but ends up abandoning the case when it's discovered that an insurance policy designed to cover this type of emergency has lapsed. Terry, however, feels guilty about his company's heartlessness, and returns to Alice through his own volition. After months of lengthy negotiations requiring daily contact on an intimate basis, Terry begins to have feelings for Alice, and she, having taken comfort in his presence, also begins to develop a romantic attachment.

   Although Ryan quite capably fulfills the role of a worried wife caught in an emotional roller coaster, the film unquestionably belongs to Crowe and Morse, who both masterfully capture the psychological tension that progressively begins to overwhelm each of their characters. The stoic yet lonely quality Crowe lends his onscreen persona strikes a perfect balance to Morse's portrayal of a mentally and physically deteriorating prisoner, desperate to return to his wife. Supporting performances by Pamela Reed as Peter's tough-as-nails older sister and David Caruso as Terry's wisecracking fellow K&R buddy round-off the well-assembled cast.

   Audiences expecting the supercharged non-stop action that's normally associated with a thriller are sure to be let down by the deliberately even pace of the movie. That being said, "Proof of Life" has much to offer those who prefer suspense films to challenge on a psychological as well as visual level. Starring Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, David Morse, Pamela Reed and David Caruso. Directed by Taylor Hackford. Written by Tony Gilroy. Produced by Taylor Hackford and Charles Mulvehill. A Warner Bros. release. Action/Drama. Rated R for violence, language and some drug material. Running time: 133 min

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