Peacemaker, The

The new nukes-on-the-loose action thriller, The Peacemaker, tells us
in its opening credits that it was directed by Mimi Leder, but as the first and
presumably showcase cinematic product of the Spielberg-Katzenberg-Geffen
studio, it has all the earmarks of a Spielbergian extravaganza. There are
advantages and disadvantages to the fact. Or, really, one advantage and one
disadvantage. The advantage is that it is fast-paced, never dawdles or wastes
time and is full of breath-taking action sequences. If what you like from the
movies is that Indiana Jones-style, rollercoaster narrative and to hell with
characterization or anything more subtle, then this
here’s your movie. The disadvantage
is, as it is with all the rest of the Spielbergian oeuvre, that it is

And there is something about a brain-dead political movie that I find
particularly irksome. The plot has a crazy right-wing Russian general (Alexander
Baluev) stealing ten nuclear warheads in order to put them on sale for fantastic
sums and covering his tracks by staging a nuclear explosion in the Urals, at the
cost of untold numbers of dead. What else do you expect of a crazy right-wing
general? But just to make sure we’ve
got him tagged right, the script has the c.r-w.g. observe of a parade of
refugees: “I hate them because
poor.” Of course if he had been a
crazy left wing general he would have loved all the poor refugees and
would have felt really bad about killing so many people. Yet so far, I suppose,
so good. It’s possible. It could
happen, as Mike Myers’s Wayne would
say. Maybe.

But here is where mere foundering implausibility sinks forever into a Mariana
Trench of stupidity. For the c.r-w.g’s
only customer is a Bosnian pianist called Dusan (Marcel Iures) who claims to be
Serb, Croat and Muslim all rolled into one (we
mustn’t offend any particular
nationality!). After his wife and daughter are killed in Sarajevo by a
(presumably) Serbian sniper he begins to brood in Olympian fashion about his
nation’s troubles and how they should
be left to his Serb-Croat-Muslim fellow countrymen to work out for themselves,
without the help of the meddling foreigners of the IFOR UN force. So in the
intervals of playing lugubrious Chopin Nocturnes, he decides to break his piggy
bank and pay the c.r-w.g’s outrageous
price for the dubious pleasure of setting off a nuclear explosion at the U.N.
building in Manhattan.

I’m sorry, but even Wayne is not
going to buy that one.

To make matters worse, our action hero in this case is not, to me anyway, a
charmer. George Clooney plays Col. Tom Devoe, a hot-shot army ranger with the
usual complement of martial, romantic and linguistic skills (the latter two
sorts of skills we have to take on trust), but somehow it
doesn’t carry conviction. For one
thing, this supposedly fluent Russian speaker who is completely at home and
among friends in Eastern Europe and Russia, the master of the
region’s political and military set
up, cannot pronounce the words
“Urals” ,
properly, and actually has to look up the last on a map in order to discover
that it is situated on the border of Iran. He pronounces the name of the Loire
River in France as if it were
and when an urbane Austrian proudly showing him around what looks like a Chateau
of the Lower points out to him a Tiepolo on the wall, Col Tom says with a smirk,
a big Leroy Nieman fan myself.”

In other words, this is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Yet we are
meant to root for our philistine hero as he does battle with the sinister,
Chopin-playing terrorist who is determined to blow away a couple of million New
Yorkers because—well, because
he’s unhappy.
It’s true that Hollywood has often
appealed to the baser instincts of its audiences by contrasting a big lovable
American lug who has more muscles than brains with sinister European art-lovers
who listen to classical music when they are not murdering good red-blooded
Americans. But to make matters worse, this piano-playing pansy is a
conservative! In explaining, in articulo mortis, his reasons for wanting
to vaporize the east side of Manhattan and a fair bit of Queens he can only say:
“I want it to be like it
was.” Well, there you are.
That’s enough reason right there to
hate the bugger.

Unfortunately, it is not any reason to love Col Tom. In fact, Col Tom is not
lovable. He is meant to seem lovable, especially to his fetching co-star,
Dr. Julia Kelly (Nicole Kidman), a nuclear scientist and the
movie’s statutory babe-brainbox. But
he doesn’t do anything lovable.
There is only the barest hint of what must have been the all-too predictable
scenario of the action man Colonel—
“a talented soldier with sloppy
impulse control” as Dr Kelly describes
him—and a lady love who suddenly finds herself
“not in Washington
anymore.” The funniest line of the
movie comes with Col Tom’s finishing
of that cliché: “This is the
real world!”

Yeah right, the real world in which a meathead like you saves the world from
nuclear devastation singlehandedly. This is a
world that makes Washington, D.C. look like Newark. Col. Tom
hasn’t the slightest individuality. It
seems enough for Ms Leder and her screenwriter, Michael Schiffer, to put him in
the classic role of the big, dumb lovable lug and hope that this by itself will
be enough to make him lovable. It is not. He is, humanly speaking, a bore and a
boor. And Dr Kelly is not much better. The movie is so concerned to give us our
thrill-a-minute action ride that it forgets to do the most basic character
development—that which is necessary if we are to care what happens to
these people, which is in turn what’s
necessary if we are to be truly thrilled by their encounter with a succession of

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