Proof of Life

Directed by Taylor Hackford
Starring: Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, David Morse, David Caruso, Pamela Reed.
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some drug material.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
December 11, 2000

The makers of Proof of Life can trust that their film will be remembered. Not because it is good, because it's certainly mediocre. No, this is the film that pulled Meg Ryan away from Dennis Quaid and into the arms of Russell Crowe, or at least that's what the gossip columns want us to believe. If only I had a behind-the-scenes documentary to review, but alas, I have to review the film itself.

Ryan plays Alice, the wife of Peter Bowman (David Morse), a civil engineer who is building a dam in the troubled South American country of Tecala (for those of you who failed Geography, that nation doesn't really exist). His intent is to stop the constant flooding, but he could only do it as a subcontractor to a big oil company that needs some positive P.R. while they install a pipeline nearby. When the company is bought out by a bigger oil company, his project is halted, which depresses Peter and strains his marriage.

While going to work for probably the last time, with little hope of returning to Alice as before, Peter is kidnapped by a group of revolutionaries. The company sends their insurance representative/soldier of fortune Terry Thorne (Crowe) to lead the ransom negotiation. However, their insurance has run out unexpectedly, and their new parent company won't cover the cost. Thorne, understanding gent that he is, privately volunteers his services.

Why does he do this? Proof of Life tries to convince you that he has fallen for Alice, but is noble enough to get her husband back just to make her happy. Sound kinda familiar? That's right! You're a lot smarter than Warner Bros. thought you were. They have simply recycled their greatest achievement, Casablanca, with hopes that nobody would notice. Screenwriter Tony Gilroy may want you to think that it's a homage, but trust me -- it's a rip-off. Even the last scene is simply the famous closing scene between Bogart, Bergman, and Raines, paraphrased and delivered by Crowe, Ryan, and David Caruso (of all people).

So how does this version measure up to the original? Don't bother asking. Let's just say it muddles through without getting too repulsive. There are some snappy scenes orchestrated by director Taylor Hackford (The Devil's Advocate) that keep it somewhat exciting. It also manages to go on forever, and only gets less interesting. They even cut out a steamy scene after test audiences didn't approve, so the entire physical chemistry between Crowe and Ryan consists of a single, half-baked kiss.

So, if you want to see a version of Casablanca that lacks any passion or creativity, but is in color with modern stars, go ahead and see Proof of Life. What you won't see is anything that explains the real-life relationship between Ryan and Crowe. Enjoy!

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Proof of Life (2000)

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan