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Proof Of Life
review by Ren C.
Running Time: 135 minutes
Starring Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan
Written By Tony Gilroy, William Prochnau, Thomas
Directed By Taylor Hackford
Retail Price: $24.98
Features: Commentary, Making-Of Featurette, Theatrical
Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby
Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 2.0, English Subtitles,
French Subtitles, Chapter Search
I think that by anyone's standards, "Proof of Life" can
be called a box-office disappointment. Part of this, no
doubt, was due to the ongoing drama about Russell Crowe and
Meg Ryan's decidedly off-screen relationship. However,
despite the extracurricular activities, "Proof of Life"
itself can best be described as tedious.
The movie opens in Chechnya, where we meet Terry Thorne
(Crowe), a hostage negotiator, and a very good one at that.
His services will soon be required on the other side of the
world. Shifting to South America, we meet Alice Bowman and
her husband Peter (David Morse), who are in South America
while he is constructing a dam, ostensibly to aid the
people, but also to aid an oil pipeline.
Even at first glance, it can be seen that the Bowman's
marriage is not well, for several reasons. However, Alice
forgets all that soon after, when Peter is kidnapped on his
way to work by a local terrorist agency, who think he is
working for the oil company. They are in the dark about the
fact that Peter is soon to find himself out of a job, due to
another company taking over.
Bowman is in a panic, for obvious reasons, at least until
Thorne arrives. Thorne describes himself as a K & R
(kidnapping and ransom) specialist, and seems to be in
control of the situation, until he learns that his employers
have a very large and very lucrative contract with the
competing oil company and he is called back to London.
When Thorne gets back to London, he is still concerned
about Alice, who has found herself in the hands of one of
the "local experts" that Thorne warned her about. Thorne
makes the decision to go back to South America and take the
case himself. The question is, can Thorne use all of his
facilities to rescue Peter, and at the same time, keep
himself from falling in love with Alice?
While the story idea, in and of itself is good, the way
it is executed seems very disjointed. The director, Taylor
Hackford, uses frequent time shifts, which sometimes
encompass minutes, sometimes hours, sometimes days, and
these shifts can go back and forth several times within the
same scene, which I found quite confusing. The movie also
seems like it has several different genres compressed into
it and the last half-hour or so feels like a different movie
I also thought that the relationship between Crowe and
Ryan would translate into something more on screen, but the
romance really place no major part in the movie, aside from
some noticeable sexual tension. Possibly the biggest problem
with this movie, however, is the running time. At two hours
and fifteen minutes, the movie has several points that get
very tedious and the movie starts to meander. Overall, this
movie is one of those saddest of creatures, a movie with
great potential which fails to live up to it.
As always, I expect any movie that has been released
within a year to have a stellar transfer, and "Proof of
Life" does not disappoint in that regard. The anamorphic
transfer looks fantastic, and I only noticed a few specks
throughout the length of the entire movie. The colors are
bright and vibrant, and the flesh tones look very natural.
While the 5.1 track was impressive, it seemed at several
points like more could have been done with it. "Proof of
Life" isn't an effects movie by any stretch, but there were
several explosions in the movie that I felt could have come
through a little better. However, the dialogue is never
overshadowed, and I especially enjoyed the several sequences
where background music became foreground music seamlessly.
Also available are a French 2.0 track, and English and
Not quite a special edition, this disc contains a few
supplements, which together make for a fairly nice package.
The first of these is an audio commentary with director
Taylor Hackford who is very enthusiastic about this movie
and its production. He speaks at length about many different
things regarding the making of the movie, including Crowe's
willingness to perform his own stunts, and how the movie
came to be. Occasionally, he does slip into the trap of
describing what is happening onscreen, but takes it one step
further by explaining character motivations and putting
everything into context.
The next feature is an "HBO First Look: Making of Proof
of Life", but this doesn't fall into the typical
self-promotional category. The first five minutes or so of
the fourteen-minute featurette are heavily promotional,
however, after that, we get some nice behind-the-scenes
footage, and some comments from actual K & R workers.
There are also some very good anecdotes told by cast and
The features conclude with the fairly standard "lifted
directly from IMDB" cast & crew filmographies, and the
theatrical trailer that does a good job of making the movie
actually look interesting (Editor's Note: It's a shame
that's how they all are).
While this movie will never be remembered as a classic,
certainly fans of the director or actors may find it
entertaining. As I stated earlier, there is a lot of
potential contained within the movie, and it seemed to
squander itself more and more as the movie went on. The
video and audio are excellent, however, and there are a few
nice features present. Therefore, I will give this a
recommendation to rent.
(2.5/5 - NOT included in
NOT an average)