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Proof of Life (R)
Warner Bros.

Official Site

Director: Taylor Hackford

Producer: Taylor Hackford, Tony Gilroy, Charles Mulvehill, Steven Reuther

Written by: Tony Gilroy

Cast: Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan, David Morse, David Caruso

Rating: out of 5

It’s hard to say exactly what it is that this movie lacks. I mean the talent is all there. Some high-quality actors (well, Meg Ryan is arguable), strong storytelling, beautiful cinematography (from the guy who filmed the DECALOGUES), and even a fairly interesting storyline. But by the time the credits roll and the final shot of Crowe fades, you find yourself wondering what happened to the 2+ hours of celluloid flashing before your eyes. Where did the time go?

What I'm getting at is that this movie is slow. There’s a lot of dead time. This is a movie badly in need of a good trimming. It’s kind of bulky and unwieldy. The pacing is very erratic and suspense is seldom doled out. Which is not to say the movie's a loss. There’s just not much good to say. There’s nothing new here. When engineer Peter Bowman (Morse) is kidnapped in a third-world country, his wife Alice (Ryan) hooks up with kidnap negotiator Terry Thorne (Crowe) in hopes of saving her husband’s life. That’s not an oversimplification. That’s all the plot there is.

We’ve all seen these characters and these plot twists before. Crowe’s character is the tin man with a heart, a character as old as Clint Eastwood himself. However, Crowe seems to break the bonds of this stereotyped character and breathe quiet life into the movie, which keeps it from dying. He's turning into quite the star these days, and he really is perfect till the last frame. His downcast eyes and chiseled face say more than any amount of character exposition. Meg Ryan pales in comparison. Her performance is dead on impact. Perhaps she was overwhelmed by Crowe’s abilities, but without her, the romantic tension is lost and the movie becomes really boring, really fast. David Morse is strong in his sub-plot inside the kidnapper’s base, but it seems almost inconsequential since you all know how it's going to turn out. Oh, and David Caruso’s back, and career failure seems to have made him desperate as he furiously tries to jazz up his minor character and draw everyone’s eyes toward him. When Meg Ryan is on screen, it works very well.

The cinematography is beautiful. Ecuador is just an exquisite place and the director and cinematographer don’t let you forget it for a second. If you do go to see this movie, stay for the credits. There some of the loveliest things you’ll ever see. Technically speaking, the movie is good. However, the fault lies in the script, or even farther back, the story idea. Why make this story? There’s nothing new to be learned or said here. There isn’t a lot of romance or action. There isn’t even a message. Just what is the point? If it was based on a true story or there was a theme, then maybe, but not like this. It’s hard to make a long review out of this movie because there just isn’t much to talk about. There’s just not much there there.

—Zack Schenkkan

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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