A US Army colonel and a civilian woman supervising him must track down stolen Russian nuclear weapons before they're used by terrorists.
The basic notion of stolen nuclear weapons being chased through a crumbling, amoral Russia by a maverick intelligence officer, Tom Devoe (Clooney) and an uptight nuclear scientist, Dr. Julia Kelly (Kidman), aided by hi-tech military hardware and a passing political backstory, reeks of the charged Americanisms of Tom Clancy with more than a faint aroma of one 007.
Actually, it's based on an investigative article by journalists Andrew and Leslie Cockburn about the black marketeering of old Soviet warheads. In practice, the movie touches neither the solid gusto and know-how of the Jack Ryan movies, the self-referential charm and grand scale of the Bonds, nor does it crack any could-actually-happen shock value. Instead Leder charges along the linear script, which boils down to a high-paced chase from the Urals to Vienna to the Iranian borderland to New York City with the able assistance of satellite Peeping Tommery and Clooney's ability to divine his enemy's movements seemingly from thin air, delivering thrill and, indeed, spill at every juncture.
There's no doubting Leder's enthusiasm for the task, with the full repertoire of ER's spindizzy camerawork and cut and thrust edits used to maximum effect. Her efforts, though, resound with bombast. There is just so little to The Peacemaker. The big set-pieces, excepting a stylishly Gothic train robbery sequence, reveal scant imagination, crunching cars, ticking bombs, and bouncing over New York City yellow cabs wielding a chunky revolver. Stunt graft as old as the Hollywood hills.
Clooney and Kidman's characters (and no one else, including the bad guys, really gets a look in), were poorly shaped on page and the actors fume and glare without eking out much chemistry or tangible charm. Michael Schiffer's script is arrogantly jingoistic; the former-Eastern bloc a morass of scurrilous ex-generals and ignorant peasantry, with only solid-jawed Americans able to tidy up the nuclear threatening mess. And the film has an edgy sadistic streak; each lead gets a brief weepy moment but that's about it for the human touch. Stuff the battalion of incinerated Russkies.
The straightforwardness of it all makes sure the running time careers by with attentions unspanned and those hardware-junking junkies out there will no doubt dig the pile-driven action. Kidman never really recovers from being frumpised by the horrific purply-brown dye job. Clooney, despite all, still cuts quite the heroic figure; but for goodness sake will someone give the man a well-written part?
Despite all its failings, you still get a bloke loose in New York with a nuclear bomb. Which is fun. Sort of.