Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Peacemaker

I like George Clooney. I also quite like Nicole Kidman. Both are generally likable on screen and have made some excellent films. Unfortunately, The Peacemaker is not one of them.

In fact, this beige little film is a triumph of blandness. I suspect it’s one that Clooney and Kidman, in their dotage, will suddenly remember as a fleeting fancy that seems barely believable and best forgotten, like Tab Clear or when Gordon Brown was prime minister.

Opening in a war-torn nation (insert name of Eastern European country, in this case Bosnia but it could have been anywhere), there is a mysterious assassination in a church. (It's odd how Hollywood scriptwriters seem to think Europeans spend an all their time lighting candles in vast medieval churches).

Next we see a rogue Russian general stealing a train loaded with nuclear warheads, and using one to wipe out a section of rural Russia in order to hide the theft. No potatoes in Volgograd for 300 years or so, methinks. Which might have made for a more interesting premise.

Instead, what follows is a global hunt for the missing warheads before they can be used to obliterate the UN building in Manhattan.

The plot is ultimately thwarted by the unlikely pairing of a White House nuclear scientist (Kidman as a bookish desk jockey, although pre-Botox so at least she can smile properly) and Clooney’s hardened, unruly military man.

All of which sounds like familiar thriller territory, but there are some plot constructs for which you simply can’t suspend belief. For instance, it’s never made entirely clear why an office-bound nuclear expert suddenly finds herself the commanding officer of a global military operation, accompanied only by lantern-jaw Clooney and a few token soldiers.

The opening scenes and grim politics of the former Yugoslavia serve only as a convenient device to segue into the ‘nuclear chase’ element of the film. At this point Clooney, for some reason, ditches his seemingly appropriate combat gear and dresses up like an estate agent playing golf at Augusta.

Aside from the storyline, which is fairly cookie-cutter, it’s the protagonists poorly constructed plastic characters that really grates here. The two leads are textbook ‘cut from different cloth’ characters, struggling to understand each other’s values and motives, before eventually realising 'Hey, we actually hold the same values underneath'.

The problem is that both leads utterly fail to even reach the giddy heights of functional stereotypes. Clooney, supposedly a roguish, maverick special forces lieutenant (as if such a thing exists) instead seems to do a very thorough job, more John Major than John Rambo.

There are no violations of the Geneva Convention, no flagrant disregard for standard operating procedures, no performing of unauthorised fly-bys that have officers spilling coffee over themselves. Clooney is basically a very good, and deadeningly dull, army officer.

Kidman’s character is equally vanilla-flavoured. After witnessing a death first hand, she is initially shocked and traumatised by George's disregard for human life. Minutes later, she's gazing moodily out the window wearing her best ‘Am I bovvered’ expression as Clooney mechanically mows down a car full of terrorists.

In fact, Clooney and Kidman appear to be acting in totally different films – neither of them particularly good. I was left wondering if there’d been a mix up in the mailroom at the studio, with Clooney sent an early version of Three Kings and Kidman sent the script for PS I Love You or some other god awful tear-jerker. 

Anyway, to the money shot. Chasing the rogue general through the Balkans, Clooney and his special forces extras, sorry I mean team, have to enter Russian airspace in three helicopters. With an illegal entry into their airspace, the Russians fire a surface-to-air missile, neatly catching the middle chopper plum on the nose. “Instant chopper fireball,” as Alan Partridge would say.

Artistic merit 

It’s a good explosion, fully visible and neatly executed with one chopper in a formation of three clinically picked off and plummeting out of sight. Disappointingly though, the action doesn’t linger or dwell on it, and simply moves on. Mimi Leder clearly isn’t an exploding helicopter enthusiast.

Number of exploding helicopters

One.

Exploding helicopter innovation

None. I think it’s fair to say surface-to-air missiles have knocked out many a rotor blade, probably quite a few over Russian airspace.

Positives 

The Peacemaker is a monument to the fact that no-one is perfect. It’s nice to know that, like the bottom drawer of my bedside cabinet, Clooney and Kidman also have things they are probably ashamed of. 

Negatives 

The pure aesthetics of putting Clooney in shapeless cream slacks and a baggy polo shirt. Even Sir Roger Moore would have baulked at that.

Parting thought 

Although commercially successful, this film hasn’t aged well, which is unsurprising given how doggedly it goes through the motions. Consider, for instance, that it was released in the same year as Men in Black. And there aren’t even any exploding helicopters in that.

Review by: Jindy

2 comments:

  1. Great review! Totally agree, this was pretty paint-by-numbers, but it had a couple of good action moments, especially the exploding helicopter and the bit where Clooney jumps over all the cars.

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  2. The only other interesting thing about this movie, is that it was the first film by the Dreamworks company that Spielberg & co had set up.

    Give how 'paint it by numbers' it was, you wonder if they deliberately choose a film which was so conventional to avoid anything like a flop as their first venture.

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