Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 10, 2020)
Given his current status as virtual “national treasure”, it can be tough to remember how long it took George Clooney to become an Official Movie Star. After he earned fame via his role on TV’s ER, he leapt to a slew of potential hit films, but Clooney needed more than a few flops to finally gain true “A”-list status.
1997’s The Peacemaker stood as one of those many financial disappointments. Given its $50 million budget, its $41 million US wasn’t a terrible fate, and the movie took in $110 million worldwide, so it almost got to profitable status.
Still, Peacemaker felt like it should’ve become a breakthrough for Clooney, not a film without much box office impact. While
Peacemaker wasn't one of the all-time greats, it certainly deserved a better fate than it received.
After a train crash, a Russian nuclear weapon explodes. At first this appears to stem from an accident, but nuclear expert Dr. Julia Kelly (Nicole Kidman) suspects someone intentionally detonated the weapon.
Kelly gets placed in charge of the investigation, one that takes a broader turn when US Army Special Forces officer Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Devoe (Clooney) provides evidence that someone staged the train crash to steal nuclear weapons. They trace events to unravel the conspiracy and prevent subsequent nuclear explosions.
For the most part, The Peacemaker has a lot going for it, as it can be pretty exciting and compelling. The film tells a fairly complex story which moves at a nice clip from start to finish.
All facets of the film never seem less than competent and they usually exceed that standard pretty easily. While the film doesn't exactly redefine the action thriller genre, it makes for a rousing example of the form.
The Peacemaker does break from some tradition for a few refreshing changes. For one, the lack of romance between the leads becomes a welcome twist.
Despite two attractive actors via Clooney and Nicole Kidman, they never go down the smoochy path. The filmmakers use a clever bit of misdirection early in the movie, as the tale sets up the notion that at least one of the pair is available and looking for love.
Happily, Peacemaker essentially ignores this theme the rest of the way. In fact, there's virtually no hint of any romantic overtones until the final scene when we get the idea that Clooney and Kidman may get together. Frankly, I could do without even that, but the treatment of a professional relationship between two beautiful leads offers a refreshing change.
Kidman's role seems somewhat unusual in that it doesn’t need to be played by a woman. At virtually no point during the film can I find a scene that requires a woman in Kidman's role.
Admittedly, the presence of a woman as this character makes it easier to let the role cry or look awkward in a new job, as audiences tend to accept vulnerability from women much more easily than from men. Nonetheless, a male definitely could fill the part with very little rewriting.
While Kidman's Dr. Julia Kelly needs to come across as a strong woman - after all, she's the boss of Clooney's Col. Tom Devoe for the duration - unfortunately she spends much of the film as Devoe's sidekick. Occasionally we get to see glimpses of her Princeton-educated mind in action, but not to the degree where Devoe's brawn gets balanced by Kelly's brain.
Both lead actors do well in their roles. Clooney's charming-guy smirk pops up sometimes, but for the most part he keeps it in check and makes his tough-guy character believable.
Kidman also makes you accept her character. She comes off just as convincingly during moments of strengths or weakness.
Peacemaker didn’t find a huge audience, but it manages to deliver a pretty good thriller. This ends up as an absorbing tale.