Proof of Brains in Hollywood

Proof of Life proves many things. It proves it is possible for Hollywood to make a good movie. It proves producers and directors are capable of creative thought. It proves that, yes, there is a reason actors like Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe are paid millions.

Proof of Life follows the ordeal of Alice Bowman (Meg Ryan) after her husband Peter (David Morse) is violently kidnapped and marched through the mountains of South America to be held for ransom. A skilled and experienced negotiator, Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe), is called in to help "play the game."

In this star vehicle, Ryan manages to be both cute and sexy in her role as the hippy housewife to her ‘geer husband. She exudes confidence, grief and stress at all the right moments, and at all the right levels. Crowe is, as always, superb. If for some reason you’d ever wondered what a hostage negotiator/soldier would be like, watch Crowe–his portrayal is amazingly realistic and believable. Crowe’s associate negotiator David Caruso is hilarious, but not in a stand-up manner. He’s funny like your best friend is funny, not like Seinfeld is funny.

While this could have been a simple fun adventure film, superb writing and most importantly, social commentary, turn Proof of Life into something much more. Think of movies like Die Hard and True Lies. Those were awesome action movies, but there wasn’t any underlying idea behind them. They were just for fun, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s great when a film exceeds those expectations.

The entire story brings up many questions. Why would someone risk living in a dangerous area? Do corporations actually care about their employees? Do these terrorists use fear for political gain or for economic benefit? What kind of people are drawn to a life of terror? Are all people good at a base level?

Nevertheless, while these and other questions are pondered by the audience, helicopters, explosions and gunfire thunder across the screen. Here, Crowe swings his considerable muscle throughout the film. Proof of Life may look at issues and develop characters and storylines, but it also blows stuff up very frequently and very well.

Proof of Life creates some other questions as well. Will this raise the bar for the action-drama genre? Why can’t all movies be this good? And, why isn’t Russell Crowe allowed to use his real Australian voice more often?

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