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The Peacemaker

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Peacemaker

Starring: George Clooney, Nicole Kidman
Director: Mimi Leder
Rated: R
RunTime: 122 Minutes
Release Date: September 1997
Genres: Action, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Marcel Iures, Alexander Baluev, Rene Medvesek, Armin Mueller-Stahl

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

"The peacemakers must be made to feel pain." Now that doesn't sound too logical, but when this movie's principal villain makes that strange announcement, he hopes that the audience which will make "The Peacemaker" numero uno at the box office will sympathize just a little with him. The peacemakers of the title are the governments of the U.S. and Western Europe, but paradoxically, they may have caused more violence by their actions than your average warmonger. As implied by Dusan Gavrich--whose role is performed by Romania's Marcel Iures--the powers that imposed their so-called peace settlements on his native Bosnia actually created friction by compressing populations of historical enemies like Serbs, Muslims and Croats. As a result Dusan's beloved child is shot down before his eyes. He is determined at this point to punish not the actual killer but the governments which, he is convinced, set the stage for the atrocity. Hence his scheme to vaporize a ten-square block around the United Nations building in New York, where a treaty is about to be signed.

"The Peacemaker," like many other movies of the genre, requires the audience to suspend reality more than they are requested to do for, say, romantic melodramas or even light comedies. There is so much activity packed into this two- hour show that you can be forgiven for a little confusion. What seems to be going on is a two-pronged scheme. One is Dusan's design to clear the traffic jam on New York's Upper East Side. The other is a scheme by General Alexsander Kodoroff (played by the Moscow Academy Art Theater-trained Russian actor Alexander Baluev) to hijack ten nuclear devices from a speeding train, truck them to Iran, and return with big bucks. The Russian mafia--which supplies the trucks--is involved, of course, and so it remains for Dr. Julia Kelly (Nicole Kidman) and Col. Thomas Devoe (George Clooney) to save the U.S. from the Ayatollahs and secure Bloomingdale's from an enraged and self-pitying terrorist.

The picture features some striking scenery, of both mountainous areas and Olde Worlde streets, captured by photographer Dietrich Lohmann in such exotic areas as Slovakia and Macedonia, which stand in for Sarajevo and surrounding Bosnia. The opening scenes come on strong in the James Bond style, as General Kodoroff and followers equipped with laser guns and coal-miners' hats take over the train carrying the Big Berthas on the way to being defused under treaty agreements. But as one soldier says, "I didn't joint the Russian army to see it dismantled by the Americans," which gains the response, "The world is changing."

The world changes as well for Julia Kelly, a nuclear scientist who as acting head of the White House Nuclear Smuggling Group reports directly to the president. Though a decisive individual accustomed to having her rapid-fire orders executed promptly, she seems to have no direct experience with the violent world outside her offices, that is, not until she is teamed up with Lt. Col. Devoe, an intelligence man attached to Special Forces, who teaches her that violence is the way to stay #1 in the still-turbulent post-Cold War world.

In a world dominated by the United States, one in which-- according to Devoe--"the Russians couldn't find snow in the winter," the Americans would be sadly mistaken to feel smug. The U.S. won the Cold War but there are sinister forces at work which continue to make this a parlous world. Countries like Iran, Iraq, and Libya may dream of waging chemical and biological warfare. The smuggling of still-active nuclear weapons to hostile governments remains a possibility. And individuals with certain personal agendas are determined at the risk of their own lives to seek vengeance against the powers they feel are frustrating them. The initial half of "The Peacemaker" is the more explosive part, filled with sinister looking guys speaking strange tongues (but providing English subtitles) who pull off an exciting raid on a bomb-conveying train under the literally sleeping noses of its Russian guards and proceed with their plan to get the firepower over the Azerbaijani border to Iran. There is car chase which is as gripping as it is trite, as Devoe, with passenger Kelly in tow, deliberately rams his bulletproof Mercedes against the vehicles in hot pursuit. But when Devoe and Kelly hunt down a pair of fanatics in Manhattan who have stolen a single nuclear device and plan to detonate it inside the U.N. building, the film becomes an all-too-predictable race against the clock as the American team must defuse the bomb with minutes to go.

Still, Nicole Kidman looks dashing whether doing laps in her agency's pool or chasing down zealots without mussing her hair or dirtying her Calvin Klein blouse. And Clooney has perfected his shy smile and his tilt of the head so effectively that when he invites Kidman to share some beers we have no doubt of her response. Until the conclusion there is little hint of a love interest, though there's some playful one-upmanship, as when Clooney announces to Kidman, "I've just spoken to the Joint Chiefs of Staff" to which Kidman replies, "I've been on the phone with the president." The frantic activity is directed by Mimi Leder, who proves that a woman at the helm of an action-adventure film can be as macho as anyone.

Copyright 1997 Harvey Karten

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