" What does B-stroke-78352 mean to you? "
— Michael Palin, Brazil

MRQE Top Critic

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Lara punches a shark, rides a motorcycle on the Great Wall of China, and dives off a skyscraper —Matt Anderson (review...)

Jolie fits nicely into Lara Croft's boots

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George Clooney was the best movie Batman yet. Val Kilmer was flat and brooding and Michael Keaton was too much of a wimp. Clooney brought the right mix of sophistication and wisdom. Not being a fan of ER, I attributed his success to good acting.

Now that I’ve seen him play the same character in One Fine Day, ER, and now The Peacemaker, I see that he’s one of the worst actors to make it big, good looks aside. He’s the next Arnold Schwarzenegger — icon, not actor.

The Peacemaker is a very conventional action movie. All the baroque trim, all the flourishes, have been removed. There is no love interest, there are no wisecracks, just stripped down, economy model action movie. This was no doubt Leder’s point, and it was a good idea, but it didn’t work.

The effect was that the movie felt, well, plain. It felt like a quickly made, no-time-for-details, made-for-TV movie (not surprising considering Leder’s strong TV background). It didn’t shun enough of the action genre to really set itself apart.

After an opening sequence of Russians stealing a packet of nukes, the movie introduces Julia Kelly (Nicole Kidman), a special investigator whose job it is to find out what happened to them. Assigned to assist her is Tom Devoe (Clooney), a military liaison with strong Russian connections.

They track the nukes through Vienna, where Clooney is tailed by a crew of disposable bad guys in identical cars. The ensuing chase scene is very well handled; it looks great on screen. But the endless destruction, first without any airbags deploying, and second without any apparent moral or legal consequence, shows that Leder and screenwriter Michael Schiffer really didn’t leave the action genre as far behind as one might think.

Kelly and Devoe eventually recover all but one of the stolen nukes. They track this last one to Bosnia, where they learn that Gavrich (Marcel Iures) a Bosnian politician disgusted with the West’s lack of aid in their war, intends to detonate a single nuke at the U.N. building in New York.

The movie crosses the Atlantic to Manhattan, where another good-looking, but rather conventional chase scene happens. The movie’s climax involves what Roger Ebert calls RDRs — red digital readouts — counting down to the destruction of New York.

Can Kelly and Devoe stop the bomb in time? Well — yes and no. But even that enigmatic conclusion isn’t enough to set this movie apart.

It would be interesting to see a truly genre-breaking action movie that doesn’t just shun the superficial elements (like love interests and wisecracks), but questioned the very idea of using violence to combat violence as the morally Right thing to do.

Or maybe that would just be boring.