Hollywood has certain pet bets: romance, hostage dramas, assassins, big monsters
and then some more romance... And we are not complaining. Most of us are content,
though not excessively happy, with the few formulae being twisted and mixed
to give us an illusion of novelty. But happy we are not when a seemingly interesting
plot with unbelievable casting and not exactly limited resources fails to deliver
Peter Bowman (David Morse) and his wife Alice (Meg Ryan) are in Telacca, some
godforsaken Latin-American land rocked by cocaine and communism - and terrorists.
After a nasty argument with Alice, Peter leaves for work the next morning, only
to be kidnapped for ransom by a terrorist group called the ELT. Enter Terry
Thorne (Russell Crowe), a seasoned hostage negotiator who knows exactly what
he is doing, and is naturally the only one Alice can trust.
Weeks and even months go by without Peter, with Terry making mammoth efforts
to negotiate with the kidnappers, demanding that they provide him with convincing
"proof of life." Meanwhile, Peter, who is made to walk for weeks in the marshy
hills, seems to lose strength and hope with every passing day. And somewhere
along the not-so-straight line, Terry falls in love with Alice.
How and why they do not say, probably because they strongly believe that love
hath (or needeth) no reason. But even the most predictable of movies tell the
tale better, peppering it with tit-bit gestures and conversations that convince
the audience that Something Is Amiss. Proof Of Life does very little of that.
It does seem as if the director is stuck between the romance and the action,
and in choosing the action so decisively, he fails to give the romantic angle
its due. And I mean, come on, its Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe, for God's sake.
The thread of continuity in the movie is missing, and the camera moves from
Peter to Alice, from the hills to the city, in a highly confused and zigzag
manner. We do realize that the movement must have been intentional. But the
confusion kills the best of intentions.
Proof Of Life, at its worst, is a fragmented movie. Whispered dialogues that
are barely understandable accentuate this feeling. At its best, it offers some
brilliant scenes between the cast and really breath-taking cinematography. At
the end of it all, you are left with an uncomfortable feeling of incompleteness
and mild regret for all that wasted potential.