The Peacemaker

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Special Edition DVD

Dreamworks, widescreen 2.35:1/16x9, languages: English DD 5.1 [CC], French & Spanish Dolby Surround, subtitles: Spanish, single side-dual layer, 16 chapters, rated R, 129 min., $29.99, street date 12/8/98.


  • From the Cutting Room Floor
  • Stunt Footage
  • Production Notes
  • Cast & Filmmakers Bios
  • Theatrical Trailers

Studio Line

Directed by Mimi Leder. Starring George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Marcel Iures, Aleksandr Baluyev, Rene Medvesek, Gary Werntz.

The terrorist has many faces. He can be the political fanatic intent on making a statement. He can be the mercenary seeking only financial gain...or he can be just a man driven by his own personal demons.

In a remote section of Russia, too trains are on a collision course. One carries passengers...the other, nuclear weapons en route to be deactivated in accordance with the START nuclear disarmament treaty. Moments after the train crash, a 75 kiloton nuclear blast shatters the rural landscape, putting the world's governments on high alert and setting off an international manhunt, in Dreamworks Pictures' high-tech action thriller The Peacemaker.

Dr. Julia Kelly (NICOLE KIDMAN), a nuclear scientist and the acting head of the White House Nuclear Smuggling Group, is the first to realize that this catastrophe was no accident and most likely the work of terrorists. But it is Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Devoe (GEORGE CLOONEY), an intelligence officer with the U.S. Army's Special Forces, who counters that it was actually part of a conspiracy to cover up the piracy of the train's nuclear cargo by profiteers. They are both right.

Joining forces, Kelly and Devoe find themselves in a clash of ethics and ideologies as they race to find a nuclear needle in the haystack of Eastern Europe. The pursuit of the hijacked cargo ultimately leads the two Americans back to their own homeland, tracking an unlikely terrorist who is driven by the most tragic and personal of agendas. As the bomb ticks down, Kelly and Devoe must orchestrate a complex, large-scale manhunt through New York City, targeting the terrorist before he can lash out at the heart of the Free World.

Picture/Sound/Extras (B+, A-, B-)

Lots of TV actors have attempted the leap from small screen to big, and lots have been humbled by the experience (the name David Caruso ring any bells?). So far, George Clooney seems to have earned membership in this club. From Dusk Till Dawn, One Fine Day, Batman and Robin, The Peacemaker, and Out of Sight - not exactly a roster of blockbusters, huh?

When this happens, conventional wisdom says that audiences don't want to pay to see someone at the theater who they can see for free at home. This explanation washes for about five seconds but it doesn't hold in the long run. For one, if that was the case, why did anyone see the X-Files movie? And how come the TV curse also hurts actors like Caruso, who were no longer on TV by the time they entered movies?

In my opinion, this argument puts too much weight on how strongly the presence of an actor influences what movies audiences choose to see. Oh, I fully believe that lots of people will see movies that otherwise might not interest them because of who's in them - you think I would've bothered with Six Days, Seven Nights without the presence of Harrison Ford? Also, many people avoid certain movies based on members of the cast - Anne Heche almost kept me from seeing Six Days, Seven Nights (Harry won).

But will anyone avoid an otherwise compelling film just because they can see one of the actors on TV? I doubt it. Who's going to say, "Well, Out of Sight looks terrific but George Clooney? I just saw him last night on E.R.!"

In general, I think audiences avoid films that star TV actors because most of the movies just ain't very good. John Travolta had no trouble escaping the curse, probably because he made movies people wanted to see (Saturday Night Fever and Grease); was it the TV curse that made Moment By Moment bomb?

Now that I've said all that, I remain at a loss to explain the lack of success that George Clooney has experienced during his film career. Sure, Batman and Robin, From Dusk Till Dawn, and One Fine Day qualified as clunkers to some degree, but Out of Sight was one of 1998's best films, and it tanked. While The Peacemaker wasn't one of the all-time greats, it certainly deserved a better fate than it received.

I thought The Peacemaker had quite a lot going for it. Above all, it was 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 picture are never less than very competent and they usually exceed that standard pretty easily. While the film doesn't exactly redefine the action thriller genre, it made for a rousing example of the form.

The Peacemaker did break from some traditions for a few refreshing changes. For one, the lack of romance between the leads was a very welcome change. Here we had two very attractive actors in Clooney and Nicole Kidman but they never "get it on." The filmmakers used a clever bit of misdirection early in the movie; we see Kidman stuffs some recently-received roses into a trash can, and soon thereafter we observe Clooney as he reads the "let's make up" card from her (apparently) former boyfriend. This clearly sets up the notion that at least one of the pair is available and looking for love! Bring on Big George!

Happily, we never get to see Big George use Little George. In fact, throughout the film, 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 have done without even that, but the treatment of a professional relationship between a man and woman that features no nooky is quite a departure.

Really, Kidman's role is somewhat unusual in that it didn't HAVE to be played by a woman. At virtually no point during the film could I find a scene that required a woman in Kidman's role (well, as long as some dialogue about her looks and the occasional kissing of her hand is dropped). Admittedly, having a woman play her character made it easier to show her crying or to have her look awkward in her new job - audiences tend to accept vulnerability from women much more easily than from men - but nonetheless, a male definitely could have done the part with very little rewriting.

While Kidman's Dr. Julia Kelly is supposed 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 is balanced by Kelly's brain; she has her moments, and she DOES end up the hero, but the vast majority of the progress made in the film comes from Devoe's actions.

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 both strength or weakness.

While audiences didn't flock to the cinema for The Peacemaker, how they ultimately react to the DVD remains to be seen. A late participant in the game, it's one of Dreamworks' first DVD releases. While no one will confuse their programs for the amazing work of New Line or Warner Bros., neither did they embarrass themselves as some OTHER studios who also came late to the DVD cause.

Throughout the film, the DVD of The Peacemaker maintains a fairly crisp and clean image. However, I sensed enough haze and lack of clarity at times - mainly during interior shots - to make the picture less than top of the line. Overall, it's pretty good; colors seem accurate and outdoor shots always look great. I was dissatisfied with the look of indoor scenes to lower my rating to a "B+."

The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for The Peacemaker was more consistently good. It lacked either the awe-inspiring punch of a Twister or the fine seamlessness of a Blade to earn an "A" or "A+" rating, but it merited a solid "A-." Music, dialogue, and effects all sounded natural and clear, and while the surround environment occasionally seemed a little too "speaker specific," it nonetheless packed a decent wallop and added a lot to the visual action. Hans Zimmer needs to add a little variety to his repertoire, however; throughout the film, I heard too much music that strongly echoed his work on The Rock. (By "strongly echoed," of course, I mean "sounded exactly like.")

The DVD release of The Peacemaker tosses in an above-average but less than overwhelming pack of supplemental materials. Surprisingly, I found the stunt footage segment to be the most compelling extra. This piece showed a few minutes of behind the scenes shots of stunts being performed and then displayed the finished result. Who knew Clooney did so much of his own stunt work? While the final scene included cuts, this piece shows Clooney chasing after the villain on foot down a New York street; it was really cool to see him tear down this avenue all in one long take.

Most disappointing of the bonus materials is the "from the cutting room floor" segment. I thought this meant "deleted scenes." Nope - it's a few minutes of bloopers intercut with the director and others telling us how terrific Clooney and Kidman really are. Watchable but pretty much a waste of time.

The DVD also includes some interesting production notes that discuss the origins of the film - for the record, the same material is printed in the DVD's four-page booklet - plus the theatrical and teaser trailers. Both of these are interesting mainly because of the way they misrepresent the film. When I first saw these clips prior to the film's release, I thought they made it look as though a nuclear bomb had gone off in the U.S. When I watched them again today, I STILL thought that's what the trailers implied, but that ain't what happens in the movie. I guess they thought that this premise would appeal to American viewers more than the explosion of a bomb in Russia; I guess they were wrong.

Overall, The Peacemaker is a crisp, entertaining action thriller that may not rank with the best of the genre but is definitely above average. The DVD of the film is the same; it's not the greatest, but it certainly is well done and worth a look.

Previous: Vampires | Back to Main Page