‘The Peacemaker’ (1997): An early Clooney action vehicle

He ain’t Batman; he’s Lt. Col. Thomas Devoe.

By Review Staff

Opening just three months after Batman and Robin, George Clooney starred in the decidedly less silly The Peacemaker, a political action-thriller co-starring Nicole Kidman and directed by Mimi Leder, who had directed Clooney previously in various episodes of TV’s ER.

The first film produced by Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks, how could it fail?

Post-Cold War Russia, 1997. After a man is murdered in a Bosnian church, nuclear warheads are loaded onto a train to be decommissioned. But a corrupt Russian general utilizes a rogue tactical team to kill the soldiers on board and steal the missiles. A spectacular crash is then engineered, setting off a nuclear explosion and destroying evidence of the heist.

This sets in motion the action propelling Kidman’s Dr. Julia  Kelly (a nuclear expert with the American government) and Clooney’s Devoe into a web of mystery and international intrigue as they’re tasked with finding out just who’s behind the theft, and why.

And action. Don’t forget the action.

It’s interesting re-watching these early attempts at trying to make George Clooney an action star. When juxtaposed against, say, episodes of ER, you can see that Clooney is better suited in dramatic roles that play up those strengths. (The doctor, the businessman, the journalist, or what have you.)

That’s not to say to say he’s bad in The Peacemaker. He carries the action scenes just fine and isn’t afraid to mix it up with the bad guys, whether it’s hand-to-hand combat, dangling from helicopters or crashing cars in foreign countries while trying to wheedle information out of unsuspecting sources. Clooney is just better when he’s commanding a room with his presence, speaking dialogue and playing up his cool charm.

In fact, structurally the movie plays out like a James Bond adventure. From the opening train sequence to the ease with which fate selects our eventual heroes and what they go through to get the job done, one could tweak a bit here, rewrite a bit there, and this becomes another Pierce Brosnan Bond flick. (And as an action-adventure fan, there’s nothing wrong with that!)

Nicole Kidman, who was 30 at the time of the film’s release, had already solidified herself as one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies. It’s easy to see why; seeing her switch gears from fare such as 1995’s To Die For to the high strung nuclear scientist trying to save the world showed her great range. (Interestingly, she starred in Batman Forever with Val Kilmer, a full two years before Clooney visited Gotham City.)

I’ve read mixed feelings when it comes to the chemistry between Clooney and Kidman. I don’t think it’s bad; I think it’s basic in that action-movie formula way.

As for the bad guys, you get a bit of a mix, with Aleksandr Baluev’s Gen. Aleksandr Kodoroff playing the evil Russian heavy tasked with the missile theft for the first 2/3 of the film, and then Marcel Iureş, as mastermind Dušan Gavrić, steals the final act as the brains behind the whole revenge plot. Both play to their strengths here. Iureş had just come off of playing in 1996’s Mission: Impossible.

The Peacemaker $44.2M domestically at the box office.($110.4M worldwide against an estimated $50M budget). Out of 303 releases in 1997, it finished 55th in a year dominated by James Cameron’s Titanic (1st, $600.8M) and Men in Black (2nd, $250.7M).

Director Mimi Leder would next helm the more successful Deep Impact in 1998.

A recommended time waster if you like either actor (my parents always watch it through if they happen find it while channel surfing), and for fans of political thrillers in the (more serious, but still convoluted) James Bond films.

Collectors can find The Peacemaker on multi-format Blu-ray.

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