Proof of Life has a lively pulse

Kidnappings, hostage-crisis negotiations, wild dashes through South American jungles with militant terrorists hot on your heels, falling in love with the wife of the man you are rescuing.

It’s all in a day’s work for Kidnap & Ransom consultant Terry Thorne in Proof of Life (Warner Bros.), a taut international drama-adventure by director Taylor Hackford (Devil’s Advocate).

While constructing a dam in Tecala, a fictional South American country, American engineer Peter Bowman, played by David Morse (The Green Mile), is captured by an anti-government rebel force during a raid on the capital city. When the rebels learn that Bowman’s wealthy employer is responsible for the construction of an oil pipeline that threatens their agenda, Bowman is ransomed for $3 million.

With his American engineering firm going bankrupt, Bowman’s wife Alice, played by Meg Ryan (City of Angels), must come up with the means to save her husband.

She enlists the services of Terry Thorne, played by Russell Crowe (Gladiator), to make the rescue. Thorne is an Australian Special Forces veteran with nine years of experience in the field of kidnap and ransom negotiations.

Over the course of the lengthy and emotionally draining negotiations, Alice must deal with the problems of her troubled marriage, her difficult sister-in-law Janice, played by Pamela Reed (Why Do Fools Fall In Love), and her growing infatuation with Thorne.

Meanwhile Peter Bowman is tortured at the hands of his kidnappers high in the mountains. After almost 150 days at the mercy of the rebels and one failed attempt at escape, Bowman becomes dedicated to overcoming his captors and returning to his wife.

When negotiations deteriorate and time begins to run out, Thorne and fellow negotiator Dino, played by David Caruso (Kiss of Death) devise a daring and dangerous plan to enter the rebels’ jungle compound and boldly rescue the hostages themselves.

This film explodes on the screen, opening with a glimpse at Thorne’s life as a kidnap and ransom negotiator. It continues on to be both a gripping emotional drama and a first-class thriller. The movie captures the viewer with its realism, drama, suspense and flat-out breathtaking finale.

Proof of Life follows a plot that is plausible and intriguing. The situation is one that comes across realistically, as if it is something that could potentially happen to any traveler or outsider in a foreign land. The film draws the viewer in using the what if factor as they wonder what they would do in the situation and eagerly await the characters’ decisions.

While Proof of Life’s plot and action sequences are portrayed vividly and realistically, this film is watered down by problems with character development. Crowe is golden in his typical role as the hard-hitting tough guy, but Ryan does not shine as brightly. Her reactions to the situation are distant and unrealistic. She does a poor job portraying the emotions people would likely have in such an exhaustive situation.

Reed overplays the role of the distraught sister and ends up being more annoying than sympathetic. Surprisingly, the greatest performance comes from David Caruso, who delivers as Crowe’s hilarious and daring sidekick and friend.

Several sub-plots also detract from the film. Crowe’s detachment from his son in England appears early in the film, but is never brought up again or resolved. The story of the Bowman’s past and his daughter who has passed away does not add much to the situation, except to help show the strong bond between him and his wife Alice.

The attraction that forms between Crowe and Ryan adds an aspect of romance to the plot, but it also complicates the situation. In the end, the romance only escalates to one dramatic kiss and a much-needed thank you, leaving the viewer disappointed.

Regardless of its flaws, Proof of Life is an enjoyable drama-adventure. The moment in which Bowman is taken hostage during the opening scene, and the final rescue mission are intense and thrilling sequences. The drama effectively counters the action and serves to reflect the emotions and tension involved in hostage situations. This movie proves to be a lively movie-going experience.

Proof of Life is now playing in theaters.

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