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IN SHORT: Date flick yes. Great flick no.
Being the first release from the Dreamworks SKG megacorp, The Peacemaker is going to be shredded under the critical microscope, just 'cuz we Americans like to see the mighty fall. But Cranky don't own a microscope and the fact of the matter is this flick ain't a bad start. It's just not the gangbuster the big three on the west coast are hoping for.
What The Peacemaker does establish though is that, given a really good script, George Clooney will become a major film star, one of the few to make a successful transition from television up the ladder. What The Peacemaker is is a preposterous mile a minute action flick that will exhaust rather than thrill. It's a good ride, not a great one.
We begin with the theft of a trainful of Russian nuclear warheads, in a beautifully produced opening sequence that takes us from a church in Sarajevo to the Russian countryside. Steam engine smoke against a night sky; red targeting lasers slicing through a troop car, the theft and the ensuing nuclear detonation is a beautiful thing to watch. No doubt about it.
On our side of the Atlantic is Dr. Julia Kelly (Nicole Kidman), in charge of some kind of DC anti-nuke terrorist intelligence team. She is partnered with Colonel Thomas Devoe (Clooney), who reads the action as a theft, pure and simple. Both are right, but solving the mystery involves a Russian General (Armin Mueller-Stahl), a roll of duct tape, and an indestructible Mercedes Benz.
It also involves spy satellites and the sheer luck of Clooney knowing the cellular phone number of the truck carrying the stolen warheads. If a clue was dropped as to how he knew this earlier in the movie, it flew by so fast that no one near me caught it. Right there, the tension is broken and it is at this point that The Peacemaker becomes a mere chase 'em, find 'em, stop 'em action flick. It's not a fluke. At the climax of the flick, Clooney runs through gridlocked Manhattan traffic while, a mere four or five blocks away, Kidman gets into an emergency vehicle and zooms after the bad guy in her own fine preposterous way.
As for that bad guy, he's a Bosnian who's a Serb-Croat-Muslim mix and therefore on the losing end of any outcome in Eastern Europe. A flashback shows us why he wants to take his war to American soil, but humanizing the demon takes the thrill away when he finally gets his. Bad guys should be bad guys. Period.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for The Peacemaker, he would have paid . . .
All the negatives aside, Mimi Leder has delivered a movie that rarely stops for a moment to catch its breath. There's a lot to be said for that if you're looking for a fun, no-brainwork-necessary date movie.
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