Mimi Leder will largely be known in the film biz for Pay It Forward; coming back after a major disaster is a privilege not yet granted to female directors. Before (and apparently after) that, though, she was an ace television director largely known for ER; she was responsible for “Love’s Labor Lost,” one of the most harrowing hours of TV ever. (I remember meeting people the next day who’d seen it and we were all still in shock.) Her ER (and not yet film) star George Clooney joined up for her debut feature film, The Peacemaker.
It stays well within the bounds of the European Adventure genre–with a little polishing it could be a Bond flick–and it has all the weaknesses of that. Clooney and Nicole Kidman are in pursuit of a bunch of stolen nuclear warheads and of course he’s tough, of course she’s the Washington insider who needs to learn how the real world works, yet of course he learns something from her, of course there are multiple picturesque settings, of course the Bosnian War only has meaning when it results in a threat to America, and of course the ending makes no sense to anyone with a basic knowledge of chemistry–or logic, for that matter.
If you can accept that, what you’ll see is a relentless, linear, unity-of-action thriller that’s about nothing but the pursuit. Leder never lets up and crafts every scene to have impact; she generates more momentum than a lot of higher-paid directors could imagine. She knows how to tell a story visually and how to keep multiple perspectives on action going and she gets a performance out of Clooney that, along with From Dusk Till Dawn, shows the movie star Soderbergh would discover in Out of Sight. Watch him in the moments before action; he’s learned how to use his stillness and those huge eyes to create the promise of absolute ownage. And Leder delivers on that promise.
The Peacemaker streams free for Amazon Prime subscribers, and thanks to thesplitsaber for reminding me of it.