Proof of Life is Russell Crowe's post Gladiator film, one that I had never seen due mostly to the fact that I'd never heard anything remotely good about it. It's the film that mostly sparked controversy surrounding the off screen fling between Russell and married co-star Meg Ryan. Ironically it's a film that ended up not only being the final death nail in Meg Ryan's marriage to Dennis Quaid, but also ended up being the death nail in her career.
Proof of Life is the story of Peter and Alice Bowman, a married couple whose been forced to move from country to country due to the constraints of Peter's job as an engineer. It's been rough on their lives and even rougher on their marriage, and when Peter is kidnapped in their new home of South America by a group of drug dealing rebels it seems like the Bowman's life has officially hit rock bottom. Peter's thought to be of value for ransom due to his connections with a wealthy oil company, but Peter doesn't work for the oil company he's there designing a dam which is being funded by the oil company. Unfortunately the rebels don't care, and even worse for Peter the oil company and Peter's employers don't care about to much about him either.
As it turns out Peter and most of the people working on the project were never insured, so the cost of negotiating the return is not an expense his company wants to cough up, especially since the subsidiary he worked for is closing down due to the selling of the oil company. Originally Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe), a specialist in negotiation, is brought in to handle the matter but once his firm learns Peter was never insured he's forced to pull out. Feeling sorry for Peter's wife Alice (Meg Ryan), Terry returns to South America to assist in recovering her husband on his own time, because without his help Peters return alive is highly unlikely.
Surprisingly Proof of Life turned out to be an average entertaining thriller, sometimes appearing to be a tad over-the-top, it's still quite enjoyable and definitely makes me think twice about never traveling to a country like South America were groups of rebels kidnap random people off the street in the hopes of a payout. I find it amazing that they would go to so much trouble of kidnapping someone, dragging them for days into the jungle and them holding them for months. It all seemed a little outlandish at times, but I assume most of it is fairly accurate to what goes on in countries like South America, at least it mirrors other films I've seen.
Acting wise I wasn't incredibly impressed, Russell's performance is undoubtedly the best, but it's another role, similar to his character in Mystery Alaska, that I believe could have been filled by any big name actor with some talent. That's no snub against Russell's performance, it's simply not an incredibly complex story or unique role compared to what he usually does, and there's only so much one can put into a performance based on this quality of film. As for Meg Ryan her performance fluctuates, sometimes it's good, sometimes it's extremely over-the-top. And oddly enough I didn't think there was much of a connection between the two characters, it all seemed a little forced to me, but obviously there was some sort of connection between the actors off screen.
Overall, Proof of Life is a very simple film with a thin plot and a run-time that could have shortened by about 30 minutes. There's simply not enough going on in the story to warrant an over two hour length. But with that said it's not a total wash, while there's absolutely nothing new or unique about the story it's not a horrible thriller. It's got enough going for it that it should appeal to most Russell Crowe and/or die hard thriller fans, but everyone else I can see finding this one rather mediocre at best.