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Proof Of Life

review by Ren C.

Rated PG-13

Studio: Warner

Running Time: 135 minutes

Starring Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan

Written By Tony Gilroy, William Prochnau, Thomas Hargrove

Directed By Taylor Hackford


Retail Price: $24.98

Features: Commentary, Making-Of Featurette, Theatrical Trailer

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 entirely.

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 French subtitles.

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 crew.

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 final score)




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