When you’re a television star trying to cross over to a movie career, the early choices you make can be extremely important.
George Clooney had done some films before “The Peacemaker” (streaming on Hulu), but “Return of the Killer Tomatoes!” wasn’t the sort of thing he really could hang his big-screen hat on. On the other hand, the 1997 action-adventure teaming him with Nicole Kidman was a solid vehicle for him … and it had added importance as the first release from the DreamWorks studio founded by Hollywood power players Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.
The plot of “The Peacemaker” is very much in its genre’s wheelhouse, with Clooney and Kidman as a military intelligence officer and a nuclear expert tracking a terrorist group that clearly has plans to generate mayhem using stolen warheads. With Russia as the backdrop for the villains’ first attack, the film has an international feel, but the stars keep it grounded for U.S. audiences through the rapport they have together.
While Kidman’s Dr. Julia Kelly takes a clinical approach to her work, Clooney’s Lt. Col. Thomas Devoe keeps the human factor in his sights … making for clashes between them, but also giving them good arcs to play as each gravitates toward the other’s perspective.
Still, that isn’t to infer that Clooney is a soft touch here. He shows terrific brawn in a number of tense sequences along the way, arguably the best being his brutal fight with an enemy in a truck carrying some of the warheads across a bridge. A hovering helicopter also is involved, and Clooney — and, presumably, his stuntman — certainly take and give their hits during those several minutes.
It undoubtedly helped that Clooney was quite familiar with the director of “The Peacemaker”: Mimi Leder, who also guided him through numerous episodes of TV’s “ER.” She displays as much skill and confidence in the action scenes as any male filmmaker, or as such a peer as Kathryn Bigelow (“Point Break,” “The Hurt Locker”).
Ultimately, the setting of “The Peacemaker” shifts to New York for a showdown that’s as notable for its negotiating between the heroes and a bomb-carrying opponent as for its pyrotechnics. It all adds up to a highly satisfying exercise that did quite a bit to set George Clooney on a course for the movie-world success (encompassing an Oscar win) that he’s enjoyed for 25 years now.