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
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.