Proof of Life Reviews
Set in the fictional country of Tecala, a place located in the South American jungles rendered dangerous by guerrilla rebels of the Liberation Army of Tecala (ELT). Recently relocated, protagonist Alice Bowman is unhappily involved with her husband Peter who has been hired to assist with building the dam. As Peter is ambushed by the ELT on his way to work for mistakenly thought to be someone from an oil pipeline company, Terry Thorne, a successful kidnapping and ransom expert is drafted in to help get Peter back. With Peter stuck deep in the ELT camp in the jungles, Terry must defeat obstacles and negotiate with these rebels to get him back, but as we get closer to Peter‚??s rescue, it seems far less important than when he was taken for Alice and Terry have formed an unrequited bond that could shatter the mission.
Meg Ryan has been in so many romantic classics that her acting image has threatened to twist Proof of Life into just a romance flick. Alice Bowman outrageousness comes from her skewed priorities that distort even further as the film climaxes. The return of her husband should spark Ryan into a rollercoaster of emotion, but she never bats an eyelid and simply hugs her husband who this whole film was about, yet spends a majority of her time with Crowe who was only gone for a couple of hours or so! Her priorities are quite problematic for herself, the filmmakers and most importantly the viewer, who never get over the mistreatment of her husband and her selfish standards that are based purely on her sexual desires. David Morse‚??s Peter Bowman is made of rocks, proving that the jungle will not break him. He brings to life this desperate atmosphere with his brazen looks deteriorating simultaneously as his acting realistically expands. Russell Crowe‚??s quiet charisma as Terry Thorne is excellent for both romance and thriller. He manages to make Ryan love him, and us too, for his smartness takes the film into interesting places. He connects both worlds therefore he remains an integral character to the proceedings. And let‚??s not forget the acting of native South Americans is pretty astonishing. They breed a reality into most situations that Proof of Life automatically feels like a real life kidnapping case with all the emotions heightened tenfold.
Proof of Life suffers greatly from its own disjointedness. The characters don‚??t seem to connect or you tend to not feel any emotion coming from them. No one really seems like an integral character to the plot as much as Ryan and Crowe are, and their ever-blossoming romance that in the end is rendered as meaningless as the kidnapping itself. The disjointedness is also felt through the jumping from tender romance and lacklustre ransom conversations to jungle backdrops and guns-toting rebels. Both atmospheres are two very different places, and the unevenness of the surroundings infiltrates the overall feel of the film. It feels like we are watching two very different movies that don‚??t seem to connect as much as they should. Both could do with further investigation of the romance, and the kidnapping, but must never be put together. Imagine if it were split into two films: one would be called, Part One: In Captivity, and the other, Part Two: The Unnecessary Romance. This incoherence is demonstrative of how Hollywood has trapped another film with its contrived ways, forcing Proof of Life to become a number in Hollywood‚??s collection of films with potential ruined. Because the artificialness of the story is evident in the unnecessary romance plotline that seemingly takes a stranglehold over every other genre, there is a bareness to the part of the script we actually came to see: the kidnap and ransoming.
The genre fusion within Proof of Life has it moments to remember and genres to forget. The opening scenes are pretty much a depiction of this disjointedness and the confusion of the genres in action. The kidnapping is so rapidly unexpected it fails to electrify seeing as it was the crux of what the film was based on. Even worse, the melodramatic encounter between Alice and Peter leads suddenly onto the kidnapping and is ineffectively resolved with an unconvincing whimper at the end. Proof of Life‚??s ability to thrill is its best feature, but it works on its own, never infiltrating the timid scenes. We get to see Peter in action, handcuffed and kept prisoner, meaning we get to see the kidnappers and their lair, who Peter bonds with and by the end have an understanding of their reasons for abduction and their lifestyle. Even on the other side of proceedings, Proof of Life picks up steam when it teaches us about the processes of kidnapping and ransom, and entertains us with reality. From when the fake ransom drop acting as a good faith payment is interrupted by Terry who recognises the falseness of such payments, to when Peter‚??s getaway is cut short and the altercations between Peter and the captors, Proof of Life works on some levels, but all in all is too easy and that is not a good sign when making a thriller‚?¶ because it has to thrill! It is an interesting side to Proof of Life that unfortunately is only half-heartedly engaged with as the romance is given priority and shatters any intensity the kidnapping is meant to radiate.
Proof of Life was marketed as a kidnap action thriller; with no romance whatsoever taking precedence. But the context in which the film was released has changed the way we look at this film completely. Ryan was married in real life to Dennis Quaid at the time, and Crowe, a recent Oscar winner, was never fazed by her marital status, and a romantic affair between both actors continued off-screen, even if Alice and Terry left it unrequited. This revelation came shortly after the film‚??s release, and due to this, Proof of Life suffers because the romance suddenly becomes all the more important, and extra lame when their love is never acted upon. The film should never have been about love, more about the kidnapping, political intonations and the thriller of the slow-burning plot unravelling into all-out action. The romance overshadows all this, and that is a major problem for a film whose title states kidnapping, and without which the romance would never have arose.
Proof of Life deals with too many genres to get it right, but with an over-reliance on romance, it was never going to thrive.
Despite such criticisms and scandals surrounding the film, I immensely enjoyed Proof Of Life, as I found it gripping, thrilling, suspenseful, and a hell of a lot of fun to watch - which is what a thriller should be. Can it be implausible and cheesy at times? Yes, it can be. However, it is skillfully directed, well acted, and overall well made.
The plot is simple: Alice Bowman's husband is kidnapped by a South American revolutionary group and they demand a ransom. A man who specializes in kidnapping and ransom takes on the assignment to rescue her husband in a dangerous high stakes game of life and death.
While the plot is simple, it works very well for the film as a whole as it moves at a brisk pace and is never boring. Even when characters are interacting with each other, I found myself engaged with what they were doing, thanks to the solid performances given by the actors. However, when the action heats up, it's one hell of a ride from start to finish.
In the end, Proof Of Life is a tremendously underrated thriller. I'm not sure of why people don't really like this film, but oh well. If you enjoy watching thrillers and you're willing to check your brain at the door, Proof Of Life will give you the goods when you watch it and you'll have a good time.