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Proof Of Life

Proof Of Life
Proof Of Life
Starring: Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan, David Morse
Director: Taylor Hackford
Rating: **

THIS is a classic case of a good plot somehow failing to rise to the expectations of a box office performance not because of arthouse pretensions or a silly twist but due to the director’s idea of a central pairing. On the surface, Proof of Life is a hostage drama. Meg Ryan’s engineer husband (David Morse) gets kidnapped by a group of Latino guerrillas for his association with a gas pipeline project. His company isn’t too keen to foot the bill for his release. A complicated intrigue involving oil and construction companies is at work here, but the main issue is Morse’s not being insured against kidnapping. Russell Crowe, the man brought from London as a K&R (kidnap and ransom) pro, is asked to return as a result. This leaves Ryan and her spunky but lost sis-in-law alone in a not-too-friendly country. Eventually Crowe’s conscience forces him to come back, and begin direct negotiations with the kidnappers. The film makes a bold detour (by Hollywood standards) at this point, concentrating on the adulterous attraction between a divorced man and a married woman. It starts with Ryan struggling to put her faith in the reticent ex-armyman—she is after all a reformed hippie, who retains a laidback scepticism of big games. But she is also a free and sensitive spirit. Her attraction to Crowe’s cool and macho charisma develops through the film’s noir style and languorous imagery, and brings into focus the out-of-bounds and yet pulsating ‘beneath the exterior’ nature of their alliance. Crowe remains a toughie, whose unsentimentality and remoteness towards Ryan is shown in turns as brooding and insinuative. These constitute the really fine-tuned moments of the movie—then Crowe becomes too much of a nice guy. After French-kissing Ryan he mounts a rescue mission, which goes awry in the guerrillas’ jungle hideout. However, the kidnapped hubbie, who is by now a borderline wreck, is brought back to safety. Once he hands over the husband to Ryan, Crowe tells her to go without even bidding a proper farewell. The fact that the lead pair was involved in a torrid romance during the shooting seems to have gone against the film. The director could have sprung a stylistic surprise. But that doesn’t happen. The film as result becomes just another save and rescue flick. Hackford, who probably wanted to avoid conventional cliches, ends up giving a tame, traditional climax to an adult romance. Or as the audience booed during film’s US premiere: Crowe should have got the girl!

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