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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 1/22/99



The Peacemaker
1997 (1998) - DreamWorks S.K.G.

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Film Rating: B+
DreamWorks' first film is a well-crafted, high-velocity actioner. It's also director Mimi Leder's first big screen effort, and she's done an bang-up job. The Peacemaker is intense, fast-paced... and just good fun.

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/A
The anamorphic widescreen video is crisp and clear - a very good transfer here. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is equally good. Best of all, there's a couple megatons worth of extras here.

Overall Rating: A
Highly recommended. This one's good all around - it's got some really interesting special features. And if you like Clooney or Kidman, don't miss it.

Specs and Features

124 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 54:09, late in chapter 7), Amaray keep case packaging, 2 theatrical trailers, stunt footage, outtake and blooper footage, production notes, cast & crew bios, film-themed menu screens with animation and sound effects, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), Spanish & French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English & Spanish, Close Captioned

Review

Deep in the heart of the former Soviet Union, there's malfeasance afoot. A bitter Russian general named Kodoroff, has decided to make a little extra spending cash... by selling a bunch of SS-18 nuclear warheads on the black market. He covers his tracks by detonating one of them, which, of course, gets the world's attention - kinda tough to miss something like a 700 kiloton nuclear blast. Enter Dr. Julia Kelly (Nicole Kidman), acting chair of the President's nuclear smuggling group. She's put in charge of the effort to figure out what went wrong. She's also put in charge of a rather unconventional military liaison - an Army Special Forces Colonel named Thomas Devoe (George Clooney). Devoe has his own theories about what happened, and has the contacts and field experience to prove it. Before long, the pair are flying across the globe, in a frantic race to prevent the warheads from falling into the wrong hands.

The Peacemaker was newly-formed DreamWorks S.K.G.'s first feature film. And although it wasn't exactly a huge hit in the U.S., to be fair, George Clooney wasn't exactly a huge box office draw at the time either. Director Mimi Leder weighs in with her first big screen effort, and you might be wondering... a woman directing an military action film? Well, worry not - this is a darned good thriller. It's well written, tightly-directed, very fast-paced, and a darned good watch. Clooney and Kidman are both good in their roles, although they both play it too cool at times - the chemistry between the two is a bit strained on occasion. That's a minor flaw, because it's refreshing to see a professional, down-to-business male/female relationship on the big screen for a change. And we finally get to see movie bad guys with realistic motivations for their actions - rare indeed.

As DVDs go, The Peacemaker really impresses. The film transfer is terrific - almost comparable to some of Columbia TriStar's work. There are virtually no artifacts to be seen, and the image is clean and clear, with good detail. The color appears a bit subdued - this isn't a vibrant picture - but that's how it was intended to look by the director and cinematographer. That's how it looked in the theater. There is a certain atmosphere of gloominess, that is entirely appropriate to the plot.

The best news here, is that DreamWorks has seen fit to support DVD's anamorphic feature. Anyone who's read the Bits for any length of time, will know how important I feel that feature is, so I won't go into it again here. Suffice it to say that it IS important, and DreamWorks should be saluted for understanding this.

As for sound, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is first-rate. The sound field is full and deep - a very good sense of atmosphere is created with ambient sound. And there is great use of directional sound, particularly during the action sequences, but also in general. Completing the picture, Hans Zimmer's effective score is nicely presented here as well, really helping to drive the action to a fever pitch.

And check out the extras here! The disc isn't quite as loaded as some special edition titles - there's no commentary included. But what is here is very cool, and even unique in some respects. Most interesting, is a featurette which gives you a behind-the-scenes look at how many of the stunt sequences were filmed, intercut with comments from the cast and crew, as well as the final sequence. As good (and a feature I find very welcome) is a section called, From the Cutting Room Floor, which includes outtake and blooper footage, as well as more cast and crew comments. I know some directors don't like to show outtakes from their work, but I find that it tends to humanize the work overall, and leads to a greater appreciation of what the production process is really like. And let's face it... it's just plain funny. Also included here, are pages of production notes, cast and crew bios, and both the teaser and theatrical trailers for the film.

It's also the little things that really impress me about this DVD. For example, when you insert the disc into your player, you don't have to wait through five minutes of copyright warning pages, that you can't skip past (a single disclaimer plays briefly, only after you start the film). The title menu flies right in, letting you sink quickly into the disc's content. And what a cool menu is it - full of motion and set to theme music from the score. When you select any of the sub menus, an animated explosion blasts them into the screen. And the scene selection menu gives you fully animated windows. There are even a trio of so called Easter Eggs: go into the bio pages for Clooney, Kidman and Leder, and you'll see a tiny picture of them in the upper-right corner of the screen. Selecting it will play an interview clip with each of them.

Bottom line

If you're not worked up after watching The Peacemaker, check you vitals - maybe you should have picked up a pacemaker instead. This thing really cooks. And I'm just impressed with the care and craftsmanship that went into this DVD. Having seen DreamWorks' DVD operation first-hand... well, all I can say, is that I can't wait for the next one. Hats off from the Bits, guys. This one's worth every penny.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com




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