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The Peacemaker

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com 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 Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

"God, I miss the cold war," confesses national security advisor Jerry Hamilton. Someone has set off an A-bomb in the heart of Russia, and no one knows why.

Back in the old days, both sides in the arms race stockpiled nuclear weapons in the world's biggest game of chicken. So long as the other side wasn't sure that their cache was bigger, they could be counted on not to fire first. But those cozy days of the great standoff are gone forever like the five-cent soda pop.

Today, Russia is dismantling her nukes, and THE PEACEMAKER, the first film, from Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen's new studio, Dreamworks SKG, considers what would happen if some criminal entrepreneurs stole a batch of nuclear weapons and began selling them on the black market.

Emmy award winning television director Mimi Leder tries her hand at her first theatrical movie with powerful success, albeit after an uneven first half. The second half is consistently thrilling, so don't give up on it when it bogs down at first.

A group of Russian criminals steal ten atomic bombs from a train in a daring and well executed piece of cinematic action. They explode one as a subterfuge and then sneak off with the other nine to make their fortune.

Back in the U.S., Dr. Julia Kelly, played unconvincingly by Nicole Kidman, is the acting head of the White House Nuclear Smuggling Group. Dr. Kelly, who has the fate of millions in her hands, dresses like a fashion model. Her translucent, silky white blouse is complemented by a skin-tight mini-skirt. She is permitted to let her shirttail come out a bit to show that she really does work for a living. All of this notwithstanding, her casting does add a bit of fun to the film.

To do her dirty work she is assigned an Army intelligence officer named Colonel Tom DeVoe, played by George Clooney in his best movie performance to date. Colonel DeVoe operates by schmoozing with his Russian counterparts, especially General Dimitri Vertikoff, well acted in all too small a part by Armin Mueller-Stahl. The colonel, however, is not above James Bond-ish violence when the situation calls for it.

Therein lies the problem in the film's first part. One minute it wants to be a typically unrealistic James Bond clone, the next a hyper-accurate Tom Clancy film, and the next a serious meditation on the troubles in Bosnia. Every time the show gains momentum, the story switches to a slow moving Bosnian episode. In the best parts, as when the satellite imagery is used to track the truck with the purloined bombs, the audience becomes engrossed in the details. Michael Schiffer's clever script has the colonel calling the truck's cell phone and telling the driver that a bomb is on the way -- it isn't -- so that they can see which truck in the long convoy is carrying the bomb. It is the one making a fast exit.

"I'm not afraid of the man who wants ten nuclear weapons, Colonel," reflects Dr. Kelly. "I'm terrified of the man who only wants one." Eventually they get all of the bombs but that one. The film's second half, set in Manhattan, concerns the tracking down of the last bomb. By then, Leder has found her footing and the film never again flags. The audience is on the edge of its seats in the finale as our two heroes run frantically all over the city trying to find the villains who have the bomb. And when they do, the script again surprises by not using the standard cliche of "do we cut the red wire first or the green."

With a reworked beginning, THE PEACEMAKER could have been an outstanding picture rather than merely an entertaining one. Even so, Mimi Leder's first theatrical film is well worth the price of admission.

THE PEACEMAKER runs 2:02. It is rated R for profanity and violence. The film would be fine for teenagers. I recommend the picture to you and give it ***.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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