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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Proof of Life

- photographing the hostage for "proof of life"

This weeks's movie rental is Proof of Life (2000) starring Russell Crowe, David Caruso and Meg Ryan. It did not do all that well at the box office, as it was more famous (or infamous) for the real-life romance taking place between Crowe and Ryan than it was for the storyline.

- Crowe's character negotiates via radio with kidnappers

But, I found it to be worth a watch for a few reasons ... first, Russell Crowe and David Caruso :-) ... the jungle scenery ... the barely touched on subject of left-wing rebels and right-wing regimes in conflict ... plus, the film deals with an interesting issue - the use of kidnapping for not only finanacial but political purposes*, and the profession of those who work to get the kidnap victim back safely - K & R specialists.

- explosion at the marketplace

Below is some of what Roger Ebert has to say about the film in his review ...


Kidnapping is not a rare crime but a lucrative line of business in the Third World, according to "Proof of Life," a movie that is best when it sticks closest to the trade craft of a professional K&R man named Terry Thorne. K&R means "kidnap and ransom," we learn, and the specialty has grown along with the crime; somewhere in the world, businessmen are being snatched on an almost daily basis, making lots of work for Terry (Russell Crowe) ....

Cut to Tecala, a fictional Latin American country where drugs are a major crop and a revolutionary movement has morphed into a professional kidnapping operation. We meet Peter and Alice Bowman (David Morse, Meg Ryan), an American couple going through a bad patch in their marriage, who are living in the country while Peter builds a dam. He thinks the dam will help the locals grow crops. She thinks it's window dressing for the oil company that employs him. They're hardly speaking to each other when she gets word he's been kidnapped.

Enter Terry Thorne, whose job is to negotiate the lowest possible ransom price and rescue the hostage ....

The movie's kidnap lore, based on books and articles about professional K&R men, is intriguing. Crowe, as Terry, explains his work to Alice (and to us), and we learn why you never bring in local negotiators (on the take and maybe in on the snatch), why the opening asking price is way high and how to demand proof the hostage is still alive. Meanwhile, Terry and Alice carry on a buried flirtation in which both shyly acknowledge the chemistry between them with a kiss and eloquent body language ....

I was interested all through the movie--interested, but not riveted. I cared, but not quite enough. I had sympathy with the characters, but in keeping at arm's length from each other they also kept a certain distance from me. Perhaps the screenplay should have been kept simmering until it was reduced a little, and its flavors made stronger.


I'd give the movie a bit higer rating than Ebert, but it's probably mostly a matter of taste.

- Russell as Terry Thorne

* The use of kidnapping as a political tool is interesting, if disturbing. One example I've read a little about took place in New Guinea. It's not easy to find unbiased articles about the events but I gather that in 1996, a number of scientists from Europe (and a couple of Indonesians) in the Indonesian-ruled half of New Guines (Irian Jaya/West Papua), were taken hostage by rebels for independance, in order to generate world-wide interest in their plight. This went wrong when the Indonesian military staged a questionable rescue effort.

Read more about it in the book, The Open Cage: Ordeal of the Irian Jaya Hostages , written by one of the scientists taken hostage.

Read a lengthy Human Rights Watch article on the situation in Indonesian-held New Guinea.


Blogger Matthew said...

Totally off topic: have you read _Theology of the Body_? And if you have, is it worth my buying a copy to read it?

5:57 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Funny you should ask - last night I read an article by David Hart about Theology of the Body and I'm going to post something about it probably later today. You might find it interesting - it's here.

I've only read online excerpts of JPII's book so I'm not sure if you'd consider it worth buying. You can find a lot of commentary on it online, like here - link and link

11:37 AM  
Anonymous Liam said...

I have an acquaintance in Utah who's in the Special Forces, and who tells me the miltary aspects of the movie were pretty much correct. I found it to be enjoyable and well-cast.

11:58 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


great minds think alike :-)

1:11 PM  

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