Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Proof of Life (2000)

More intense than you'd think, with credible performances.

Just when it seems like the action genre off moviemaking is about to be played, another movie comes out with a ridiculous plot, over-the-top characters who are unfamiliar with the situation, and suspenseful action sequences, some of which have nothing to do with the story at hand. "Proof of Life," starring Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan, and David Morse, jumps over all of these hurdles and manages to come out 90% unblemished. The story is unique and somewhat original, the characters are involving and intelligent, and there are no unneeded setpieces that clog up most other thrillers.

In the (fictional) country of Tecala, located in Latin America, Alice and Peter Bowman live out their lives. Peter heads up the construction of a dam to stop the flooding of small towns; she is just basically his wife throughout the movie, never really having a job or doing anything except shopping at the local outdoor market for fresh food. On his way to work one day, Peter takes a shortcut on a low mountain road, which is blocked off by a traffic jam. Soon, masked men with machine guns start jumping out of the woods, and everyone is taken from their vehicles and put into covered trucks, transported to an unknown stronghold in the mountains. Their motive: the dam project was taken over by another company in order to build a running oil pipeline through the superstructure, therefore pissing off the rebels, who now hold these people in return for some heavy-duty money.

Alice, learning of the kidnapping, employs the services of Terry Thorne, a former soldier who is now a kidnap-and-ranson negotiator for a firm that collects commissions for successful rescues. At first, he is hesitant to take the project, but later returns to it out of the goodness of his heart, despite his son that he has not spent any time with in months. He begins making contact with the kidnappers, bartering over the price that he must pay in order to receive a "proof of life," or solid confirmation that Peter is still alive. Soon, the show starts hitting too close to hom, and he realizes the only way he is going to rescue the man, and put to rest his yearning for Alice, is to find Peter and bring him back alive.

The movie proves that it fits into the suspense/thriller genre, even if it does fall a little short on its action sequences. Bowman's kidnapping and constant transfers across the mountains keep the tension building, and when he starts to yell and demand things of his captors, there is an incredible degree of intensity where the roles of preditor and prey are switched. This will prove to be one of the most thrilling moments of the movie; after that, the suspense does drop a few degrees to allow for the development of each character's attitude and emotion.

Another good aspect of the film is the minute yet unignorable spark of interest between Alice and Terry. Alice does not think anything more of him than the fact that he is the man who is helping her get her husband back. Terry, however, begins to develop feelings for her through the remorse he feels over her situation, and there are moments where you can see it in him that he just wishes to reach out and console her. This is where screenwriter Tony Gilroy and director Taylor Hackford are able to play on Alice's emotions; we know that she is moved by his feelings once they are revealed in the film, and whether or not she will do anything about them lets down on the emotion we feel for her, shifting that focus onto her captive husband.

The actors cast for this film all have a wonderful chemistry whne onscreen, whether it be romantic or moving. Russell Crowe is the perfect choice for agent Thorne. He is able to play out each move of his character, and each line of dialogue, with an elevated level of authenticity and believability. Meg Ryan, as usual, sparkles in her role of Alice Bowman, shifting from the supportive wife to the emotional would-be widow. In this kind of movie, you would expect Alice to become disheartened and overly emotional in the crucial moments of the film. Instead, the film gives Ryan a chance to play her character as powerful and with an emotion that reaches over sadness for strength and determination. It is David Morse, who plays Peter Bowman, that is the truly impacting character of the entire story. His performances, especially in the scene of conflict with his captor, make him the character to pull for in the end. By the time the action truly sets in, all you will want is to see him make it out alive and reunite with his wife, whom he truly loves.

While the suspense does tend to fall out in certain moments, it does not ruin the overall impact "Proof of Life" has to offer its viewers. Everything falls into place at the right time: the action, the budding yet doomed "romance" between Thorne and Alice, and the struggle of a man to simply make it in one of the most extreme situations imagineable. A very nice action thriller for fans of the stars involved and those looking for intensity and excitement. By D. Litton

Torrent : here
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