Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Mimi Leder
Stars: George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Marcel Iures, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Alexander Baluev, Randall Batinkoff, Michael Boatman, Rene Medvesek
Running time: 121 minutes.
DreamWorks, the new film production company established by Steven Spielberg, former Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, and record mogul David Geffen, gets off the ground with a bang with The Peacemaker.
This fast paced, suspenseful thriller about nuclear terrorism is set against the background of a divided Europe, with civil war in the former Russian republics and bloody war in the former Yugoslavia. New boundaries are drawn by interfering government peacemakers, but marked in the blood of innocent victims. Dusan Gavrich (Romanian actor Marcel Iures), a Bosnian father grieving for his dead family, decides to take the war to America and give the most powerful nation on earth a taste of terror in the hope of shaking the world out of its sense of complacency.
Written by Michael Schiffer (Crimson Tide, etc) this gripping action thriller shows just how hard it is to stop a lone terrorist who doesn’t care whether he lives or not. The film’s chilling central premise about how easy it is to steal nuclear weapons is based on a report written by Leslie and Andrew Cockburn, two leading investigative reporters, and reeks with horrifying authenticity.
When renegade Russian soldiers, opposed to the new era of detente, steal ten nuclear warheads for sale on the black market the hunt begins in earnest. Julia Kelly (Nicole Kidman), co-ordinator for a special White House task force monitoring nuclear weapons, discovers the theft, and works with Colonel Tom Devoe (George Clooney) in trying to track the weapons down before they are lost inside hostile territory. Kelly and DeVoe are opposites – Devoe is a tough, no-nonsense soldier who acts decisively, while Kelly prefers more orthodox methods and quickly finds herself out of her depth in the real world of espionage and assassins.
Playing two independent characters who have to learn to compromise and respect each other’s abilities, Clooney and Kidman establish a rapport here that adds to the film’s dramatic tension. Clooney has a strong presence as Devoe, and certainly establishes himself as a credible action hero. Kidman also does well in one of her more physically demanding roles, although it requires some stretch of the imagination to take her seriously as a respected nuclear physicist – she looks far too young for such a serious position. Iures, recently seen in Mission: Impossible, etc, suffuses Gavrich with some depth and humanity, and is a more sympathetic villain than one normally finds in Hollywood action films.
The action moves at a fast pace from war torn Europe to the crowded streets of downtown Manhattan. Kathryn Bigelow is one of the few female directors who handles the male dominated arena of tough action films with gusto, but ER director Mimi Leder steps confidently into the arena with her impressive feature film debut. She handles the high-tech action and the violent mayhem with assurance, and maintains a punishing and relentless pace throughout. Leder also establishes a palpable atmosphere of taut suspense, especially in the last half hour as Kelly and Devoe try to find the embittered terrorist and stop a nuclear blast in the heart of New York City.
There are some preposterous moments throughout The Peacemaker, but, for the most part, the relentless tension and spectacular action scenes hold the audiences’ attention.
At Greater Union from December 4.
©Greg King November 1997 Melbourne Australia