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BACK TO FILMOGRAPHY

PROOF OF LIFE

• U.S. Release Date: December 8, 2000
• Running Length: 135 minutes
• MPAA Classification: R for violence, language and some drug material.
• USA Box Office: $33 Million
• Budget Estimate: $65 Million
• Studio : Warner Home Video

Director : Taylor Hackford
Production Company: Castle Rock Entertainment, Bel Air Entertainment, Anvil Films

Cast : Meg Ryan & Russell Crowe, David Morse, Pamela Reed, David Caruso, Anthony Heald


 

PLOT SUMMARY

In a mountainous South American country, drug-dealing rebels kidnap Peter Bowman, a US engineer who works for an oil company's subsidiary. The company calls in a negotiator, Terry Thorne, an Aussie ex-soldier based in London. When the subsidiary goes bankrupt, the oil company washes its hands of the matter and pulls Thorne. Bowman's wife Alice begs him to stay. She and Peter's sister cobble together some money, Thorne talks ransom terms with the cash-strapped rebels, and Peter, chained high in the mountains, is sustained by a photo of Alice. When the politics of the situation change, so must Thorne's strategy. And what can Alice and he do about the attraction growing between them?

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When someone in Proof of Life says "Don't leave me hanging," you can bet they're going to be left hanging. That's what happens when Alice Bowman ( Meg Ryan ) learns that her husband Peter (David Morse) has been kidnapped by rebels in the fictional Latin American country of Tecala. He's building a corporate-funded dam there, and that makes him a fine target for kidnap by the rebels, who barter with the lives of well-insured executives. Enter Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe), former soldier-turned-"K&R" (kidnap and ransom) negotiator for a global firm that collects a commission for rescued hostages. With no guarantee of payment, Thorne takes the job out of moral obligation (and a yearning for would-be widow Alice).
There's little room for delicacy in Tony Gilroy's screenplay, adapted from an article by William Prochnau and the book Long Road to Freedom by kidnapping survivor Thomas Hargrove. A hint of romance between Crowe and Ryan adds tension as the story shifts back and forth to Morse's captivity, but it also threatens to cast Alice in an unsympathetic light. Avoiding that pitfall, director Taylor Hackford crafts the plot as a latter-day Casablanca that unfolds on a grander canvas (at stunning locations in Ecuador) while favoring an exciting rescue-mission climax over the tragedy of an ill-timed affair. It might have worked better as a straightforward macho action flick (with David Caruso doing lively work as Crowe's gung-ho K&R cohort), but Proof of Life effectively conveys the two-sided torment of a hostage crisis, while Morse holds it all together as the character to root for.