Proof of Life

Director:Taylor Hackford
Writer:Tony Gilroy
Warner Bros; R; 135 minutes
Cast:Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan, David Morse

Proof of Life is a political thriller colorized by a sham (if real-life) romance between its lead actors. Meg Ryan plays Alice Bowman. A vague leftist, Alice lives in South America with her husband Peter (David Morse). Peter gets kidnapped by corrupt Marxist revolutionaries as he engineers a bridge. Aussie negotiator (Russell Crowe) is called in for his brute efficiency, only to discover that Peter's company has suspiciously cancelled its hostage insurance—leaving him without a paycheck, much less means to barter for Alice's hubbie. A change of heart brings Terry (Crowe) back to the banana republic; he's Peter's only chance, and Alice has stirred his deep-seated romantic strings.

Roughly half the time, Proof of Life provides an entertaining look into the world of kidnapping and ransom. The movie was based on a Vanity Fair article about a pro kidnap negotiator and Long March to Freedom, a true first-person account of being abducted as ransom bait. Carefully researched details propel the action believably. The romance between Crowe and Ryan lacks, however. The morality of their interest is more than questionable, and the direction gingerly skirts the issue when something with more substance (or an entirely different romance) is needed.