Friday, June 20, 2003

Thoughts on The Peacemaker (1997)

Brian Micklethwait has some revisionist thoughts on the 1997 movie The Peacemaker, starring George Clooney as a Special Forces soldier and Nicole Kidman as a government bureacrat chasing rogue nuclear weapons that have got into the hands of terrorists. I saw that movie when it came out, although it didn't make much of an impression on the world at the time. One reason I think it looks fresher now than it did then is the immediacy of what it is about. While some people were worried in 1997 about terrorists getting weapons of mass destruction, it wasn't an immediate concern of most people, and the film's subject had a lack of immediacy for most people. People doing things that the Clooney and Kidman characters were doing almost certainly did exist in 1997, but their job didn't really seem as vital as it does today, and they didn't have the level of respect and attention that they do today.

Which is interesting, because Clooney and Kidman themselves didn't at the time seem as vital as they do today either. Both of them are very good in the film, and I particularly agree with Brian that George Clooney gets his character exactly right. (Kidman is good, but I think her part is less well written. She is in reality a bureacrat, and yet she goes out in the field as the partner of Clooney's Special Forces man. I am not sure this is realistic). Both of them had been picked by lots of people to be film stars, but in both cases it took rather longer than most people had anticipated for it to happen. At the time The Peacemaker was released, both of them were more famous for other reasons than for their actual movies (Clooney for his television work, and Kidman for being married to Tom Cruise). Both were regularly playing leading roles in movies, but neither had broken through. Clooney had been in a cultish movies (From Dusk Till Dawn), a reasonably well reviewed but not terribly successful at the box office romantic comedy (One Fine Day) and a disastrous intended blockbuster (Batman and Robin). Kidman was enormously famous in Australia for her acting, but after marrying Cruise had never really broken through to mass audiences in her movie roles either. However, both actors are now enormous stars, and this affects the way we look at the film. It brings them to the foreground, perhaps in the same way that the change in people's attitudes to the subject of the movie brings it more into the foreground.

Still, I don't think the movie has a great third act. The terrorists in the movie were from or at least were connected with the war in Bosnia, and were presented as being driven to fanaticism by the murders of family members. When I first saw the film, I remember finding this made me a little uncomfortable, as a real war in which lots of people were suffering at that time was being used for a movie that was basically entertainment, and in a slightly more realistic manner than usual. It was not so much the subject, as the way in which the film sort of merged with real footage and real locations that I saw on the news.

And the ending is ridiculous. After lots and lots of cool stuff, we end up with a red digital readout counting down how many seconds before New York is destroyed, and George Clooney wondering whether he should cut the red wire or the green wire. A little more originality might have been in order, but we didn't get that.

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