The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Peacemaker

Been in somewhat of a rut at Netflix recently so I'm revisiting the 1990s. Growing up, I either missed a lot of good movies, just wasn't aware of them, or was too young to see them. I saw part of this movie on AMC a few weeks ago, and frustrated with the crazy amount of commercials decided to stop watching. Glad I chose 1997's The Peacemaker at Netflix.

Somewhere in southern Russia, two trains collide -- one of them carrying a nuclear device that destroys the country for miles. The world is thrown for a loop with the explosion, and in the U.S., the White House nuclear expert, Dr. Julia Kelly (Nicole Kidman), leads a task force to handle the situation. Kelly is teamed with an Intelligence liaison, Lt. Colonel Tom Devoe (George Clooney), who believes the train collision was a cover-up to steal nine other nuclear warheads on board. Now the clock is ticking. Who is responsible for the hijacking, and more importantly, can they be found in time? They make no demands so how do you stop an enemy with hidden goals?

As happens surprisingly often, I was surprised by the IMDB rating for 'Peacemaker,' just around 5.9 out of 10 at the time of this review. Did I love it? No, it's not a classic suspense thriller by any means. Did I really like it? Very much so. Director Mimi Leder has put together a smart, well-told, exciting and even subtle at times thriller. Scenes and situations develop with ease, not that overly done, rushed feeling that permeates action thrillers. Violence is startling but not gratuitous, action fast-moving but perceptible, and let's face it. A chase for a terrorist extremist with a nuclear device is pretty hard to mess up in the thrills department. Maybe a little cliched, but Leder has some fun with it.

Starring together in 1997, George Clooney and Nicole Kidman are interesting choices for the leads.  Clooney was Mr. ER in '97, but he was clearly headed for bigger and better things. His Devoe is a solid lead; a driven, goal-oriented Intelligence officer who's fed up with the bureaucracy and wants results instead. His character is a little over the top at times, but it works mostly because Clooney was and is one of the more likable stars to grace the screen. As for Kidman, I think of her as more of an actress than a movie star so it's fun to see her in a more mainstream action flick. Neither character is developed much, just a duo hopping all over the globe in hopes of squashing this terrorist nuclear threat. Good performances when that's all a movie requires is not a bad thing.

To be memorable or at least positively reviewed, an action thriller has to have some worthwhile set pieces or action scenes. 'Peacemaker' has three high quality, memorable sequences like that. The opening train heist is a gem and sets the tone for the rest of the movie. The story truly finds its rhythm around the hour mark when Clooney's Devoe leads a helicopter assault across territorial lines into Russia (a no-no for those scoring at home). Ending in a shootout on a bridge over a gorge, it's a great chase sequence that is one-upped about 30 minutes later in the finale, a chase through downtown Manhattan in New York. As I think more about these scenes, maybe they are cliched, a little too familiar, but I fell for it. I went along with the action and enjoyed it right to the end.

Now onto the villains, always a nice thing to have in an action thriller. The script calls for two of the best, combining Russian Army renegades (including Aleksandr Baluev) with Serbian extremists (Marcel Iures and brother Rene Medvesek). The rogue Russian general is out for the money while the Serbians and their reasoning are at least partially explained. There is also a small but excellent part for Armin Mueller-Stahl as a Russian intelligence officer who's worked with Clooney's Devoe in the past.

Another case of ignoring the reviews. Just a good, old-fashioned and well-told action thriller. Oh, and George Clooney is cool.

The Peacemaker <---trailer (1997): ***/****

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