Movie review - "The Peacemaker"

October 01, 1997

Movie review

"The Peacemaker"

The insolent glow of red, numbers ticking, ticking down in a maddening frenzy, beads of sweat glazed on foreheads of number-runners and time-clock punchers.

The last time I saw a scene like this must have been at least two weeks ago, but here it is again in "The Peacemaker," a perfectly rote, perfectly preposterous, perfectly enjoyable techno-thriller.

The film, starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman, represents everything we have come to expect from action movies.

Terrorist steals weapon of mass destruction; heroes track down terrorist; terrorist dies in edifyingly gruesome or perverse way; heroes defuse bomb.


We all know how these movies turn out.

I am waiting for the movie that is daring enough to end with the massacre of millions of people by a nuclear attack. Considering the button-lipped solemnity that surrounds most movies like "The Peacemaker" ("Millions of lives are at stake!"), I would find it downright hilarious to watch a defusion attempt fail.

The question is, why do we go to these movies if we know the exact schemata that shape them? The answer used to be explained by a Western mythological necessity to watch Good triumph over Evil.

There was some Darwinian elation flowing through the streams of bad-guy blood. While the films have remained as prototypical and prosaic as ever (there is always The Good Guy and The Bad Guy, cut from rusty cookie cutters), the relish we find in them has reversed.

We now require sheer decimation - good girls, bad boys, three-eyed dogs, anything with a pulse - to quench that deep-down body thirst.

"The Peacemaker" provides that decimation in triplicate. The opening sequence features the hijacking of 10 nuclear weapons by a militia defected from the Russian army.

One of these bombs is immediately triggered, retiring the entire population of a small Russian village and its neighboring towns. The others are loaded onto a truck that proceeds to head in the direction of Iran.

Alert the Americans! Kidman plays a smart government worker who quickly has to determine the protocol for retrieving these stolen arms.

How do we know she is smart? Because "Doctor" proceeds her name and she sports a haircut that does her beauty no justice. We also know she is smart because her first order of business is to recruit George Clooney as her right-hand man.

Clooney plays a brassy Army operative who does not know that business and pleasure are two different words.

Clooney constantly has his bemused grin lighting up his face, whether he is beating up a German diplomat or asking Kidman out for a beer. But he gets the job done, of course, in an honorable and entertaining fashion.

The two Hollywood faces recover all but one missile, which has fallen into the hands, or should I say backpack, of a brooding eastern European diplomat who we are shown is human by the way he sulks and plays the piano.

They track him down to New York, where he intends to share his pain with a few city blocks of Manhattan. Do they stop him before the bomb goes off? I don't want to spoil the ending.

What I can tell you about "The Peacemaker" is that it proves, among other things, that: Bosnia is no longer part of Europe, according to Kidman; backpacks are the chic way to transport nuclear arms; Philadelphians are not as adept at driving as Kidman might like them to be; and George Clooney looks good in a beret.

This movie is the first production of DreamWorks, the company founded by our new holy trinity, Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen.

While these three might not be confused with Renaissance artists, it also is unlikely that a doctoral thesis could be written comparing the thematic structure of "The Peacemaker" to "War and Peace."

I should say that "The Peacemaker" is more thoughtful and ruminative of violence than most thrillers, but this thoughtfulness wavers on the egregious side.

Mimi Leder, whose credits are limited to episodes of "ER," has directed with panache and with a script that lacks originality and dimension.

She does little more than to add artistic flourish to a familiar context. Clooney and Kidman are amiable enough as the leads, but I did not really care about their characters, and in the end, I didn't really care about "The Peacemaker."

Jason is a senior at North Hagerstown High School.

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