I am going to go out on a limb here and say that The Peacemaker is one of the best films of it’s kind. Strangely, it wasn’t a big box office success.
There a couple of things that lifted this movie above the pack. Firstly is the sexual politics. For those who haven’t looked at the credits at the start of this review, I’ll start by mentioning that director Mimi Leder is a woman. Why does this matter? Well, the film opens with Dr Julia Kelly thrust into a high-powered position. Initially she flustered and then soon takes control. At this point, and I may come off sounding like a sexist, but I don’t mean to, it seems like the film is another feminist manifesto; the weaker woman proving she can cut the mustard with the high and mighty male powerbrokers in Washington. But then the film introduces Colonel Thomas Devoe. He is boyish and gung-ho, and seems determined to knock Kelly back a peg or two. His actions at the start of the movie are your ‘black & white’ clichés. At one point he explains field work to Kelly like this:‘The good guys, that’s us, chase the bad guys, that’s them…’ Also Devoe, when reasoning fails, is quick to resort to violence. He is the antithesis of Kelly’s character. But as the movie progresses, Kelly gets thrust into the field herself and learns that it is as simple as she may have presumed. And Devoe, the man of experience, makes a few mistakes by looking at things from a military point of view, rather than a human one. The end result is, that both of them work better as a team than as individuals. I know, it sounds a bit ‘twee’, but in the movie it works well.
Another element that lifts The Peacemaker above the norm, is a stylised sense of realism. Let me explain? But first I’ll go back to the movie Patriot Games. In that film, there is a small section where Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is in a control centre watching satellite images of an incursion on a terrorist base. This small section is quite visionary. It set the foundations for a new style of spy thriller. Ones where logic and information are the tools for power rather than guns and gadgets. On the whole though, Patriot Games, whilst being a spy thriller, it played out more like a revenge flick. But that small section of hi-tech mayhem is expanded upon in The Peacemaker (and taken even further in Tony Scott’s Enemy Of The State). The use of ‘intel’ and satellite imaging is quite frightening in it’s depiction. There is almost a ‘Big Brother’ aspect to the military’s use of technology in tracking down their suspects. Sure, it’s a ‘stylised reality’, and whether the technology is really that advanced in our world is probably open to debate (or at least a ‘confidentially clause’) but as our world continues to become one where information technology rules, it is slightly chilling to see it played out on the screen.
And finally, the last element that makes The Peacemaker a superior spy thriller, is it’s humanity. Human life has a cost. When the U.S. chopper is shot down over Russia, Kelly is seen going over the dossiers of the nine men who died. She seems almost despondent. Was it worth it? Even Devoe, when his friend Vertikoff is killed is seen to shed a tear. It’s a long way from the expendable troops that stormed volcanoes and secret lairs in the sixties.
So there you have it. This is my pick for the best spy film of the nineties. As I mentioned at the top, the film wasn’t a box office success, so if you haven’t seen it, dig up a copy and enjoy!