Saturday, April 11, 2015
(September 1997, U.S.)
THE PEACEMAKER following PAY IT FORWARD is what we would call a Mimi Leder double feature, I think. Coincidence is a funny thing, ain't it!
Any film that takes on the subject of terrorism, particularly on American soil, seems a completely different experience for me ever since September 11, 2001. Before that fateful date in history, films of terror like THE PEACEMAKER, THE SEIGE (1998) or even DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE (1995) were simply great thrillers or action films that dealt with a realistic subject that American citizens had yet to actually experience for themselves. Since that fateful date in history, the subject of terror is a whole lot more tangible and something we can actually wrap our minds and hearts around, particularly if you were someone who happened to be in New York City on that day in 2001 (as I was!) or at the Boston marathon on that day in 2013. The look on my face while I'm watching American characters like George Clooney and Nicole Kidman go after the bad guys has changed from cinematic excitement to that of deep thought and tension because I now know the true realism of what they're dealing with. And yet, it's important to remember that when this film was released in 1997, the thoughts and ideas behind it's terrorist concept and attacks among the innocent may have still been conceived as nothing more than outrageous fiction. Still, there are those who believe that violent stories of fiction dealing with acts of terror as in THE PEACEMAKER, as well as other violent American films, may have contributed to the inspiration behind terror attacks against Americans. That's a debatable point, indeed, that may or may not have a justifiable answer.
For the purpose of this film and it's story, what actually seems most fictitious to me is the fact that our enemies still involve the so-called fanatical Russian military figures, as if the Cold War were still in progress (that idea doesn't work too well for me even in James Bond films anymore!). Still, it's a high-ranking Russian general that's behind the theft of nine nuclear warheads that are amongst a series of ten. So what happened to the tenth warhead? That's what we're meant to be very afraid of because behind the ultimate act and threat of that one nuclear warhead is a Yugoslav extremist that blames other countries, particularly the United States, for supplying weapons to all sides in the Yugoslav Wars that took the life of his wife and daughter. This is a man filled with hate and rage and wants to make others suffer for it in a film that was released during a time when movie terrorists may have still had a list of demands in their pocket! But of course, with the bad guys are always the good guys who work together to track them down. White House nuclear expert Dr. Julia Kelly (Kidman) works side by side with U.S. Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Devoe (Clooney). And as he puts it, he's always letting "his enthusiasm get the best of him" in his work, which makes for some great action and thrills, including a pretty awesome Mercedes car chase. As any movie good guy, there's just something about George Clooney that makes him completely believable in anything he's after, whether it's his righteousness behind going after the bad guys or even when he's playing a would-be presidential politician in THE IDES OF MARCH (2011). Kidman holds her own in this action thriller, proving she's capable of a variety of characters, whether it's this, a crappy Batman film or a piece of British literature.
To get back to the tension of realism one can feel when watching THE PEACEMAKER, it's impossible to deny that even though one clearly expects the good guys to triumph in the end, the down-to-the-last-second sequence of terror and suspense that Mimi Leder creates during those final moments just before the bomb explodes in the heart of New York City can leave you with chills in your stomach. Those chills were likely there back in 1997, as well, but as I've already mentioned, my own interpretation and reactions to films of this sort are forever altered since 9/11. Still, thrills, excitement and good ol' fashioned American heroes are good for some of us some of the time and THE PEACEMAKER delivers that...George Clooney style, which I have an undeniable heterosexual weakness for!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Thomas Devoe: "Doctor, you can run your charts and your theories all you want. In the field, this is how it works: the good guys, that's us, we chase the bad guys. And they don't wear black hats. They are, however, all alike: they demand power, and respect, and they're willing to pay top dollar to get it. And that is our highly motivated buyer.
Julia Kelly: "What about other motivations?"
Thomas: "Not important to me."
Julia: "Whether it's important to you or not, there are people out there who don't care about money, who don't give a damn about respect. People who believe the killing of innocent men and women is justified. For them it is about rage, frustration, hatred...they feel pain and they're determined to share it with the world."
Thomas: "Okay, that does me no good. Now let's deal with the facts at hand. Twenty-three hours ago, General Alexander Kodoroff stole ten nuclear warheads.
Julia: "He's just a delivery boy. I'm not afraid of the man who wants ten nuclear weapons, Colonel. I'm terrified of the man who only wants one."