Held Hostage

Proof of Life kidnaps the audience, then tortures it to a slow death

 Day One: It was just part of the job, just another movie on another afternoon. This one promised to be no more special than any other, save for the casting of Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe. Proof of Life was the movie during which they fell in love, or whatever it is they call adultery in Hollywood. She left Dennis Quaid for Russell Crowe. In the used-car biz, they call that "trading up." If nothing else, the curiosity factor's high on this movie. Look for big box office on opening weekend, especially among the Inside Edition/National Enquirer mouth-breathers. Other than that, expecting very little. Taylor Hackford hasn't directed a good movie since ... since ... sorry, it isn't coming to me. Was going to say An Officer and a Gentleman but am not in so generous a mood. Being kidnapped makes a man mean.

Day Three: This movie begins where most movies end -- with escapes and explosions, chaos and climax. Crowe is speaking over the action, narrating what we see onscreen: His character, Terry Thorne, is a special-forces commando-turned-hostage retriever, an expert in kidnap and ransom, or K&R, as everyone in the movie calls it. He's in Chechnya, recovering a kidnapped Russian. Or maybe he's German. Or Lithuanian. Hard to tell over all the explosions. Movie looks to have been edited by someone using a chainsaw with his feet. Hard to follow. Terry tells his bosses, "Extrication did not go down well." Hope rest of the movie isn't so difficult to decipher. Fortunately, publicist for the movie handed out wine and cheese before movie started -- a holiday thing, probably, but more likely a way to distract audience by getting them drunk and full before opening credits. Have sneaked in large bottle of red wine. It does go down well. Plan on finishing in its entirety before movie ends -- if it ends.

Day Four: Introduced to Peter Bowman (David Morse), an American engineer in fictional South American country of Tecala. Peter is building a dam for the locals. He's in a helicopter, talking on cell phone to wife Alice, Meg Ryan's character. Peter tells Alice she's a hippie, though there's little evidence of this, unless "hippie" now means "chain-smoker who doesn't wear bra." Peter discovers that Houston-based oil company for which he works is about to be bought out, and his dam is damned. Turns out it's nothing but "humanitarian window dressing." Peter and Alice fight a lot. She mentions something about having had a miscarriage five months earlier in Africa. Peter tells Alice to get a job or go back to the States. He doesn't really mean it.

Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe in Proof of Life
Ralph Nelson
Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe in Proof of Life


Written by Tony Gilroy, based on Vanity Fair article “Adventures in the Ransom Trade” by William Prochnau and book Long March to Freedom by Thomas Hargrove
Opens Dec. 8 at multiple locations

Day Seven: Peter, stuck in traffic, gets kidnapped by Marxist rebel forces who have given up Karl for cocaine. They hold him for $3 million ransom. A local says she doesn't "understand my country anymore." Don't understand movie yet but am hoping to later.

Day 10: Terry finally turns up to rescue Peter. Finally Crowe and Ryan are onscreen together. Turns out they create all the sparks of two wet pieces of paper being rubbed together. Am beginning to notice that Meg Ryan sometimes looks like Melanie Griffith. Very creepy. Terry tells Alice that kidnapping is "a game you play whether you like it or not." Sounds like canasta at my grandmother's house.

Day 13: Terry runs into fellow K&R expert Dino, answering the question "Hey, whatever happened to David Caruso?" Plastic surgery, looks like.

Day 16: Peter's sister Janis shows up from Denver. She is played by Pamela Reed, who seems to have forgotten how to act. Eyes bulge a lot. Can't help but notice irony: Reed played Dennis Quaid's wife in The Right Stuff. Wonder whether Ryan and Reed ever discuss this. Alice begs Terry to explain his mission "step by step." He proceeds to do so. Half of bottle of wine is now gone. Begin to worry it will not last throughout personal hostage crisis. Begin considering switching to cold medicine in possession of woman sitting in next seat. Morse, now being held in rebels' lush mountainside camp, has grown beard and looks very dirty. Woman in next seat remarks that he looks like Bill Clinton when he attended Oxford. Must remember this.

Day 24: Terry tells Alice, "You need to settle in for a long haul." Think this would have made better title for movie.

Day 43: Terry tells Alice they are supposed to pick up ransom instructions beneath a purple Jesus in a local church. Am beginning to feel nauseated and disoriented. Fear wine has nothing to do with this. Consider forming band and calling it Purple Jesus, if Prince hasn't already trademarked.

Day 68: Peter is moved to new camp. Meets and forms relationship with French Legionnaire-turned-missionary Eric Kessler, played by some dude named Gottfried John. (Did not know French Legion still existed. Note to self: Spend less time reading Legion of Super-Heroes.) More sparks between Peter and Eric than between Terry and Alice. Hope for some Midnight Express action. No such luck. Escape attempt ensues, but I can't get out of seat for fear of tipping over what little remains of wine.

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