Proof of Life Movie Review
Consider the strange coincidence of Russell Crowe's character in Proof of Life making the moves on a distraught wife played by Meg Ryan's character in the film -- all while the real Russell Crowe was hitching up with married woman Meg Ryan in the outside world. I haven't seen this much chemistry between actors since McQueen and MacGraw teamed up in Peckinpah's masterpiece, The Getaway.
But enough with the gossip, let's get to the review.
The film revolves around the kidnapping of Peter Bowman (David Morse), an American engineer working in South America who is kidnapped during a mass ambush of civilians by anti-government soldiers. Upon discovering his identity, the rebel soldiers decide to ransom him for $6 million. The only problem is that the company Peter Bowman works for is being auctioned off, and no one will step forward with the money. With no choice available to her, Bowman's wife Alice (Ryan) hires Terry Thorne (Crowe), a highly skilled negotiator and rescue operative, to arrange the return of her husband. But when things go wrong -- as they always do in these situations -- Terry and his team (which includes the most surprising casting choice of the year: David Caruso) take matters into their own hands.
The film is notable in that it takes this very simple story line and creates a complex and intelligent character-driven vehicle filled with well-written dialogue, shades of motivation, and convincing acting by all the actors. The script is based on both a book (The Long March To Freedom) and a magazine article pertaining to kidnap/ransom situations, and the story has been sharply pieced together by Tony Gilroy, screenwriter of The Devil's Advocate and Dolores Claiborne.
The biggest surprise for me was not the chemistry between Crowe and Ryan, but that between Crowe and David Caruso. Dug out from B-movie hell, Caruso pulls off a gutsy performance as Crowe's right hand gun while providing most of the film's humor. Ryan cries a lot and smokes too many cigarettes, David Morse ends up getting everyone at the guerilla camp to hate him, and Crowe provides another memorable acting turn as the stoic, gunslinger character of Terry Thorne.
The most memorable pieces of the film lie in its action scenes. The bulk of those scenes, which bookend the movie, work extremely well as establishment and closure devices for all of the story's characters. The scenes are skillfully crafted and executed with amazing accuracy and poise. Director Taylor Hackford mixes both his old-school style of filmmaking with the dizziness of a Lars Von Trier film.
Proof of Life is a thinking man's action movie. It is a film about the choices men and women make in the face of love and war, and the sacrifices one makes for those choices -- the sacrifices that help you sleep at night.
Crowe gets his Proof.