(2000)3Karl WilliamsWhile the central relationship at the center of this romance-cum-political thriller is somewhat undeveloped and stilted, leaving female lead Meg Ryan with less than optimal screen time, this riveting and underrated film marks a comeback of sorts for director Taylor Hackford. As with his earliest and best films An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) and Against All Odds (1984), Hackford returns with great success to the theme of romance doomed because of outside societal forces pulling his protagonists apart. Russell Crowe continues his career of playing smoldering, strong but silent, and intelligent types. Supporting player David Morse practically steals the show with his harrowing portrayal of a kidnap victim growing more feral and desperate as his captivity unfolds. A comeback of sorts is also on hand for co-star David Caruso, who gives his most energetic and zealous performance since Mad Dog and Glory (1993). A real-life romance between the film's leads compelled Hackford to excise some of the love story between their onscreen characters, a decision that may dim the film's box-office prospects, but the suggestive nature of their attraction is perhaps more realistic and artistically valid than what was filmed. Apt comparisons can be made between Proof of Life and the sorts of films that attracted golden-age Hollywood stars such as Humphrey Bogart.