Wanted: handsome, gravel-voiced action man to save America from terrorist attack. Must be resourceful, indestructible and stupidly fearless. Reckless driving skills essential, female sidekick included. Romance optional. Bring your own wisecracks.
Part Bond film (run, shoot, outlandish stunts), part Clancy techno-thriller ("we've lost them, but let's see what the satellite picks up"), The Peacemaker is a formulaic action movie from start to finish. This time, vengeful Bosnians have pinched a Russian SA-18 nuclear warhead, hiding in central Europe, hoping America's latest Special Forces action man (and his brainy, beautiful sidekick), don't track them down. The action flits from mainland America to Vienna to Bosnia, and to somewhere Russian ending in "-aijan". Cars explode and old friends get shot, before a tense "Where's the bomb?" finale in the bustling streets of New York.
The missing nuke warhead plot is uncomfortably realistic. The Russians have recently admitted that, because of the break-up of the USSR, they haven't the faintest clue where all their bombs are now. A few could easily have slipped down the back of the sofa when they weren't looking. This is from a country where a local electricity company once cut off the power to the Navy's nuclear submarine fleet because it hadn't paid its bills on time. While meltdown threatened, the Russian army had to storm the power station to force the technicians to switch the juice back on.
Top marks then for the Time magazine realism - but it doesn't disguise the fact that The Peacemaker is too long, shallow and utterly predictable, despite the best attempts of a Bat-free Clooney (he's the best thing about the film).
Taken in order, The Peacemaker is not only long, but tortuous and plodding, the action sequences (good, but there are only two of them) are split apart by large chunks of international phoning, satellite watching and flitting between war-torn holiday destinations. ER's Mimi Leder directs the wham-bams and furrowed brows competently enough, but this film could have been shorter and tighter.
Then there's shallow. The main cast numbers precisely three (Clooney, Kidman, the bad guy), but the subtleties of characterisation are abandoned after the first 30 minutes. From there on in, what you see is what you get. Clooney's Thomas Devoe is a likeable, resourceful, indestructible Bond-a-like, a gravel-voiced grunt who prefers the cold, grooved feel of a belt-fed machine gun to the warm, curvier feel of Mrs Cruise's bomb expert. Kidman is an egghead pacifist, a slave to technology who demands authorisation for everything in triplicate. Romance is always possible, but Clooney's pumped-up soldier has his mind on bombs rather than baps.
That leaves predictable. The Peacemaker does have a couple of original moments - Clooney phones the bomber in his truck to taunt him, the baddie does have a sympathetic grievance, and there's an unbelievable stunt involving the nukes, a helicopter gunship and a bridge) - but the plot follows the action genre to the letter, right up to a ticking bomb finale. To prove it, we've compiled The Total Film Bomb Checklist (score one point for each of these fondly-remembered clichés):
1. Movie bombs always have big, blinking red timer displays.
2. Bad guys who set bombs always leave about an hour on the timer, giving the hero more than enough time to find and defuse it.
3. To defuse the bomb, cut the wire that links the bomb to the detonator to stop the timer. But not until only one or two seconds remain.
4. All bomb wires are different colours, so the hero can easily defuse the device when told to "cut the red one."
5. If a bomb does go off, the explosion will always be filmed in slow-motion. The characters will be running away from the blast and will know when to dive (again, in slow-mo) to avoid the worst of it.
The Peacemaker? It gets a respectable four out of five. And no, we're not telling you which one it didn't get...