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Proof of Life (2000)

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.



  1. I thought this movie was OK. I always enjoy Morse, and Crowe always has such a presence. The only thing I really remember about this film is how meh the whole thing felt.

  2. Oh yeah, Kate & Leopold, In the Cut, and Against the Ropes were the unfortunate post-PoL films that prove your point. Not a terrible movie but nothing worth recommending either.

    He Shot Cyrus

  3. Never heard of this movie but since I'm a big fan of Russell Crowe, I'm going to see it some day.

  4. i think a large part of the disconnect between alice and terry is that director hackford was instructed by meg ryan to delete an apparently quite steamy love scene from the film. not sure whether she made this demand before, during or after the affair between her and her up-and-coming, just-before-gladiator co-star, but whenever it was, hackford obliged. at that time, ryan still had quite a lot of hollywood clout, and she was a producer on the film as well. no one has ever seen the scene - maybe she got the only copy and has it locked away in a vault (or burned it) - but we understand that hackford had originally edited the film to intertwine the love scene with the scene of peter bowman's attempted escape, so it might have been hard to watch anyway.
    if the scene had been left in the film, the kiss between terry and alice and their final farewell would have had much greater impact; the way the film was released, neither of those scenes make much sense.
    BUT! the final minute and a half when the camera never leaves terry's face as the bowmans' car drives away and out of his life shows the incredible depth of emotion crowe can express simply through his eyes and facial expressions. gets me every time...

  5. Have to jump in here - yes, a group of people at a preview saw the love scene - it was reported on a fan board at the time. Unfortunately, this audience also laughed at the 'romance' in the film because of the ridiculous media frenzy over the off-screen affair. That's when the love episode was removed. If you watch the trailer closely there's a moment in it that is part of that sequence.

    You can read what the scene was like if you get the novelization of the film - it tells how Alice is alone when a riot breaks out and she goes to Terry's hotel in a panic - he rescues her out of a stalled elevator (I'd love to see him manhandle the doors open - well, I'd love to see all of this part since he ends up nakid!). Anyway, they end up in bed, having given in to their growing attraction. (Sorry, I'm having visions of them making love against the wall *whew*) So, the point of this is that in the morning she has remorse over her infidelity to her kidnapped husband and the story continues.

    That is the hidden meaning in the end convo between Terry and Alice, and why this movie doesnt make emotional sense - talk about a director shooting himself in the foot. POL is a good film that should have allowed the emotional arc to play out - everyone would have benefitted.

  6. @Bski10 - My overall enjoyment of the film really wouldn't be swayed much by the inclusion of that scene. Sure it probably would have made some bits of the story / relationship between the two main characters make a little more sense, but I think I would still come out feeling about the same about the film in general. Still it's an interesting back story so thanks for sharing it.

  7. This movie seems to be two movies with one title. Hackford has said that he likes to make documentaries,and he made Hail,Hail Rock n'Roll about Chuck Berry,which is very good. It seems as if he wanted to make a documentary about kidnap and ransom in South America more than he wanted to make a thriller/romance with k&r asa theme.The real premise of the film would be situational ethics,of the kidnappers, oil co. execs, the insurance company,and Crowe and Ryan as they have an affair...does Ryan really want the husband home again? You know there is a lost opportunity here, and if say a French director had made this film,all those strands might have been woven together along with some hot sweaty sex,it could have been a knockout.Ah well,in another life.


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