From the Archive – The Peacemaker (1997)

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“This is not a test”

Directed by Mimi Leder
Starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman

When a Russian general steals ten nuclear warheads, a US nuclear smuggling adviser (Kidman) and an Army Intelligence officer (Clooney) must retrieve them, running roughshod over the silly old Russians in order to do so. Then they must track down the Serbian diplomat who plans to blow up the UN building during a peace summit as a warning against international interference in the former Yugoslavia.

What’s wrong with it?

The Peacemaker is actually a rather unpleasant film, in part because it offers crassly simplistic answers to difficult questions. The fact that Clooney’s gun-ho antics not only override Kidman’s caution but also almost invariably prove to be the right thing to do is symptomatic of the basic problem, which is that the film is glossing over the very complex and scary issue of stolen nuclear weapons. The important issue raised by the terrorist’s motive – he blames the enforced creation of Yugoslavia post-WWII for the current troubles, and not without cause – are breezed over by the fact that he ends up a mad-eyed whack-job trying to nuke Manhattan. The fact that Clooney is willing to order a sniper to shoot through a five-year-old to stop him is not dwelt upon.

Only once is there any implication that this problem goes beyond running around and hitting people, when Clooney’s jovial Russian contact is shot, but after a few minutes confusion – in his line, such things would not normally be done – Clooney is up for invading Russia. Moreover, no-one seems to bat an eyelid at the detonation and irradiation of a large part of the Ukraine; the threat of fallout is mentioned, but not even a ‘poor sods’ is uttered in memory of the locals.

Were this a James Bond film this all might be acceptable, but it isn’t. The film aspires to a more serious level, and by so doing exacerbates its own offences. The cack-handed romantic sub-plot – which boils down to nothing more than the fact that Clooney and Kidman are both attractive – likewise serves only to trivialise the proceedings.

It’s also not a good sign that I can’t remember the name of a single character in this film. The contact might have been Vasiliy or Vladimir or Viktor and I think the General was Alexander something.

What’s right with it?

Well, this is the real problem. Extensive thought the film’s flaws are, they aren’t really that bad by the standards of the Bad Movie Marathon. However, this film has fewer redeeming features than almost any other movie ever to gain a  theatrical release. The best that can be said about it is that it is professionally made, but nothing about it shines. Not a goddamn thing.

How bad is it really?

The Peacemaker is a tedious and petty little film, in which the might of America abuses the sovereignty and dignity of all and sundry to save the world for democracy. It’s really, really no damn good.

Best bit?

See above re. nothing shines.

What’s up with…?

  • The spetnaz night vision goggles? I mean, presumably the idea is to give you an advantage by letting you see the enemy in the dark, but he can see you too because your eyes are glowing red.
  • A US Army Colonel smashing and shooting up Vienna with no repercussions?
  • The militant Serbian piano teacher?

Ratings:

Production values – Solid, professional work, but nothing ground-breaking or spectacular, even when the Ukraine is getting nuked. 3

Dialogue and performances Dull dialogue and phoned-in performances down the line. No one seems very interested in what they’re doing here and I just can’t blame them. 13

Plot and execution – Trite, lazy, ham-fisted and uninvolving. There’s a desperate man carrying a nuke around New York in a backpack, and I can’t seem to care. 15

Randomness – More-or-less under control, save for the extreme swiftness with which the leads criss-cross the world and change their clothes. That and the utter lack of consequences for their blatant disregard of other peoples’ sovereignty. 8

Waste of potential – A stolen-nuke action thriller should really be more action-packed – one raid, one car chase, one fight and one foot chase is pretty lame – and more thrilling than this offering. Moreover, the utter lack of good points in this film means that I just have to give it maximum points here. 20

Overall 59%

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