Proof of Life is two movies. It should have been just one.
Most of the film is a drama. Meg Ryan’s husband has just been kidnaped in Tecala, a fictional country in South America. Russell Crowe (giving another great performance) is an international “K&R” (kidnaping and ransom) specialist who’s called in to help get him back. Like Pushing Tin, much of the interest in Proof of Life is in its grounding in reality (Proof of Life is inspired by a Vanity Fair article). You’d never imagine that it is someone’s job to negotiate ransoms for insurance companies. You hardly need a screenwriter to make it an interesting movie, all you need is a researcher and a brand-name star.
R for language, violence
Proof of Life almost survives in spite of its screenplay. The clunky dialogue, written more to drive the plot than to sound like natural speech, is forgivable. What ruins the film is the last 20 minutes. What had been a drama becomes an action movie. A story propelled by the value of a white man’s life, suddenly cheapens itself by treating brown-skinned extras as cannon fodder. A movie that took life and death very seriously now looks like Rambo, or Doom. The last act is an exciting 20 minutes, but it doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie.