What do you do when you fall in love with a man who is assigned to rescue your kidnapped husband?
Proof of Life
Plot: Alice and Peter Bowman (Meg Ryan and David Morse) are an American couple in a South American country, due to the latter`s involvement in a major construction project. Things go horribly awry when Peter is kidnapped by local hoods, who put a price on his head. Ace negotiator Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe) takes up the assignment of getting Peter back, first for a reasonable ransom and later, when talks fall through, by force.
`Proof of Life` could have been any one of three films. It could have been an exciting action yarn, throbbing soundtrack, flash-cut editing et al, one of those B-movies that deliver a good ride and are instantly forgotten. It could have been a gentle character study (which it would have probably been, had it been made in France), a heartfelt drama detailing the wife`s loneliness and state of desperation trying to get her husband back, even while falling for the negotiator`s rugged charms. Or it could have been a faux-social commentary, one of those dramas that drop in hot-button issues like the drug wars as the backdrop of a portrait of a modern marriage.
The tragedy is that the movie wants to be all three, and suffers badly for it. Ryan is all right in a rare serious role, but her character has no heft and the budding romance with Crowe is extremely half-baked. How serious are we supposed to think her feelings for him are when not one scene bothers to establish any kind of romantic intimacy? All I got was a feeling that they were sharing their sorrows of the past.
Ryan`s relationship with her husband is better sketched out. One particularly effective scene has them doing `talking head` turns of storytelling about their lives, she to Crowe and he to a fellow prisoner. Crowe does another star turn, and underplays his role effectively. Yet, his character, supposed to be logical and ruthless, is shown doing unexplained things like coming back to do this job for Ryan even though his company pulls him out from it earlier. Morse does some believable suffering in captivity. His role is actually the most interesting, for he doesn`t play the prisoner like an object of pity, but instead as one filled with the arrogance of knowing that his captors cannot afford to finish him off.
The best thing about the film is the scenery, and the beautiful South American locales provide an exotic ambience for the drama. The rest of the film is neither exciting nor heart breaking. It`s the kind of film that makes you want to use words like `solid` to describe it, not `exciting` or `entertaining`.
Rating: The movie is never boring, but never anything more than a pastiche of several good-intentioned but not-very-effective scenes strung together. Oh! For trivia buffs, this is also the movie where on-screen stars Meg and Crowe met and fell in love with each other off screen.
Reviewed by Baradwaj Rangan. What did you think of this review? Post a message on our message boards or write to editor @sitagita.com