MPAA Rating: R/Genre: Action Thriller/Stars: George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Marcel Iureş, Aleksandr Baluev, Rene Medvešek, Randall Batinkoff, Holt McCallany, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Goran Višnjić, Michael Boatman, Carlos Gómez, Sebastian Roché/Runtime: 124 minutes
Well for such a run of the mill debut slice of cinematic pie, I think it should be said that DreamWorks did make quite the wonderful comeback. Yes it might not have had the best start out of the gate, but moving forward it wasn’t long for this distinct studio to make waves and really set up as a Hollywood player to really keep an eye on. Of course when your founders have the names of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen respectively, it really isn’t that hard to see just how this studio found itself on the Hollywood fast track as it not only ensnared success of both a commercial and critical variety with such films as Galaxy Quest, the Shrek movies, Gladiator, and Prince of Egypt to name but a few to say nothing of Spielberg using it as a home for some of his movies including Minority Report and Saving Private Ryan. Of course for all the accolades and praise one could hope to heap on this studio, one can be forgiven for not remembering that when the studio began in 1997, its’ very first movie was a surprisingly mehhh entry in the Action genre known as The Peacemaker that was helmed by Mimi Leder and had a power combo of acting talent in the forms of Nicole Kidman and George Clooney. Yet whilst this movie did make the, at the time, burgeoning DreamWorks a fair bit of moolah back, it is still worth noting that this is one slice of cinematic pie that I don’t know if I can fully recommend. Yes the stars do good work, yes the director is in top form, but this film is still sadly sunk due to a narrative that is mehhh at best and truly run of the mill at worst thus making for a film that every twist in the road you can see coming from a mile away.
The plot is as follows: In the aftermath of that global confrontation that was the Cold War, we see that the former USSSR military is hard at work getting rid of all the nukes that they had at their disposal in order to use in a potential strike against the US. However when a nuclear blast from within Russia itself makes news across the planet, it is soon believed that a tragic impact between 2 trains were the catalyst for the ensuing explosion. Yet while most in our government are seemingly satisfied with this explanation, we soon see that an intelligence expert by the name of Dr. Kelly instead is of the belief that this incident was a horrific act of terrorism. Opposing her on this is a military officer by the name of Lt. Colonel Devoe who has been pushing his own alternate theory. Mainly that the train accident and subsequent detonation were a smokescreen for someone to make off with nine other nukes that have mysteriously gone missing. To that end, we soon see our dynamic duo embark on a mission to find and secure the missing nukes only to uncover a perilous scheme led by a vengeful and driven nemesis who has no desire to put an end to this game until a wrong from his past is finally righted. Thus we see that from Russia all the way to New York City, it is up to our dynamic duo to place their own lives in hock should they wish to thwart this diabolical scheme and in the process saves millions of innocent people.
Now right off the bat I guess I should let you know that this slice of cinematic pie is one that I found immensely exasperating. Yes film helmer Mimi Leder does her absolute best in trying to make this one work as best as she possibly could, but she is still let down significantly by the fact that the script she and the actors are working with is about as run of the mill as a film in the Action genre could be. Indeed everything from missing doomsday devices, a driven foe, a gung-ho military type, and a not that bad on the eyes civilian operative to say nothing of a set of typical plot beats all aid this slice of cinematic pie a vibe that you are watching a lower budgeted James Bond effort. I mean this slice of cinematic pie’s narrative is one that could easily have been, and actually was I think, at the heart of at least one 007 adventure not to mention countless other action films like Broken Arrow from the year prior to this one incidentally and this is why this film is no more and no less than decent through and through. To that end, Leder’s helmsmanship does show a degree of potential that 3 years later she would really capitalize on with a movie known as Deep Impact. A slice of cinematic pie that triumphs in equal measure due to heart and genuine pathos as well as narrative and the helming skills of the filmmaker. With this slice of cinematic pie though, Leder simply can’t get the movie to operate past just the absolute basics. Yes she does try to showcase a swift, riveting, and time-sensitivity that is admirable, but it just seems to fall flat nearly as much as it actually functions. Yes this slice of cinematic pie isn’t terrible from a style perspective, but all the style in the world can’t help your movie when it has other flaws that will leave you thinking you just saw something you have most assuredly seen before.
Flaws aside, this slice of cinematic pie is one that as a run of the mill Action film still operates fairly well. Yes it might not work in nearly every arena on the level that it should with particular regard to its tedious at times runtime, but by and large this is not a bad example of what a typical middle of the road Action film can look like. Key to this is the fact that the more intricate aspects of the narrative aren’t really that important. Sure they may help to bring cohesion to the narrative, but this is the kind of film that operates fairly well with the audience learning everything on the go with our main characters. Indeed it is when you view the film is this respect that the movie is actually aided rather than detracted from since it also permits aspects like the lack of cohesion between our lead performers, action beats that are fun but completely lacking in realism, and all the artificial suspense to just stay in the background and appropriately place front and center the 2 characters to say nothing of the bullets and bombs. Yes it might be astonishing to not see a romantic bent between our two main characters, but that void actually aids the audience into treating the characters and their circumstances a lot more seriously. To that end, it should be noted that Nicole Kidman and George Clooney do the best job that they possibly can acting wise. Indeed Kidman does a good job in a role that can best be described as gorgeous woman in brilliant career and is a role that has perhaps best come to be exemplified not by Kidman’s role in this sadly, but rather by 90s Denise Richards in the 007 movie The World is Not Enough. Clooney on the other hand does a good job at giving us the same character we have seen him play countless times, but still can’t enough of. Indeed the confidence, sense of fun, and sly smile are all on full display and ultimately Clooney does manage to show the chops that have helped him become one of modern cinema’s finer thespians. Still, and in the same vein as the work done by the director, our talented duo just aren’t able to bring their very best to the film due to being let down terribly by a script that is typical with a capital T.
All in all and at the end of the day, I think it is a pretty safe bet to make that no one in any frame of mind whatsoever is going to go out of their way and distinguish The Peacemaker as one of the 1990’s top-tier entries in the world of movie magic belonging to the action genre. Yet whilst this slice of cinematic pie is most assuredly not one in the vein of something like Con Air, Speed, The Rock, or perhaps the peak that is Terminator 2, it also most assuredly is no Speed 2 either. Rather, this is an example of a film that for all intents and purposes is a pitch perfect example of what the intersection between a great action film and a terrible action film looks like in film form. Yes film helmer Mimi Leder does try nothing short of her best to attempt to bring an essential balance to the horrifically predictable and run of the mill script this slice of cinematic pie is operating with, but even Leder’s finest attempts can’t shield us from the fact that this slice of cinematic pie is in possession of a very elementary narrative that in no way, shape, form, or fashion permits for any degree of novelty much to the dismay of anyone who happens to enjoy this kind of movie. As a result of this, we see a pair of consequences ensue. First would be the fact that this slice of cinematic pie is also unable to form and/or maintain any degrees of either intrigue or suspense, a pair of essential components that any film of this ilk needs decent degrees of in order to work as efficiently as it ought to. That and the lack of either sees even the immensely talented dynamic performing duo that is Nicole Kidman and George Clooney struggling to do the best job that they can with this particular material though not for lack of effort. Thus it isn’t as terrible as it could have been, but overall this slice of cinematic pie is also nowhere near as good as it could’ve been either. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Peacemaker “97” a solid 2.5 out of 5.