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Film / The Peacemaker

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"I'm not afraid of the man who wants ten nuclear weapons, Colonel. I'm terrified of the man who only wants one."
Julia Kelly

The Peacemaker is a movie from 1997 directed by Mimi Leder, staring Nicole Kidman and George Clooney. It is notably known for being the first film released by DreamWorks.

A collision of Russian trains results in a nuclear explosion that turns out to be a cover for theft of other weapons. An official in the US State Department overseeing nuclear weapons, Dr. Julia Kelly (Kidman), and a U.S. Army Special Forces officer. Lt. Col. Devoe (Clooney), must work together to find and recover the stolen nukes before they can be used. The movie was filmed in Slovakia and parts of the former Eastern Bloc as well as New York City. An example of the post-Cold War era in film making, it still retains a great deal of the Cold War focus on the Russian threat and American world supremacy.

Has nothing to do with the comic book character Peacemaker and his series.


  • Anti-Air: The Russian air defenses do not think kindly of Devoe bringing three heavily armed choppers full of commandos into their territory. As a result, he leaves with only two. Though it's implied that Kodoroff used his connections to that effect.
    Devoe: ...if a top-ranking Russian general is involved, any intel we get from Moscow is either compromised... or a flat-out lie.
  • Anti-Villain: Gavrić. He is portrayed more sympathetically than the other main antagonists in the movie. While the others are in it for the money, he has more personal motivations: his wife and daughter were killed in Sniper Alley during the Yugoslav Wars. Rather than blame any of the warring sides, he blamed the West for supplying them with the arms to commit those atrocities - his plan to set off a bomb at the UN Headquarters is an act of revenge.
    "I am a Serb. I am a Croat. I am a Muslim."
  • Artistic License – Geography: The Russian-Iranian and the Russian-Turkish borders — both of which do not exist at allnote  — have a key role in the plot. In a movie about Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell, no less!
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Kelly uses the butt of Devoe's pistol as a hammer when trying to damage the detonator on the last bomb. But given that if she failed to knock out one of the detonating charges, the bomb would vaporize a good chunk of New York in thirty seconds, she might not have cared about the possibility of the gun going off and shooting her.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: Averted, in that Dr. Kelly actually does know what she's talking about (and the script-writers got the details largely correct).
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Subverted. Kodoroff tries to force his way through a Russian customs post by pulling rank, shouting orders, and threatening to have the border guard punished for his lack of cooperation. The border guard nearly lets him through, but stands firm in the end and insists on inspecting the contents of his truck. (Not that it does him any good).
  • Bilingual Backfire:
    • A double example occurs when Kelly and Devoe are given the passenger manifest for the train carrying nuclear weapons. Kelly states that it's meaningless, but when Devoe retorts that it's simply in Russian, Kelly reveals that she does, in fact, speak Russian - the list is meaningless because it gives only names, not ranks or positions. Devoe in turn reveals that he, too, speaks Russian... and the pair have their first "Eureka!" Moment when he recognizes one of the names on the list.
    • When Devoe and Kelly meet with Vertikoff, the latter switches to Russian to tell Devoe she's out of his league. Kelly retorts (in Russian) that he has no idea...
  • Book Ends:
    • The film starts and ends in a church.
    • Kelly swimming laps.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Devoe tells the senate committee that he had a friend who provided a factory-fresh SUV. Later on Kodoroff reveals it was a stolen vehicle Devoe bought on the black market.
    • Overlapping with Stealth Pun. Shortly after being assigned to work with Dr. Kelly, Devoe describes his worldview by stating, "The good guys - that's us - we chase the bad guys, and they don't wear black hats." A little while later, the pair find themselves in a car chase... a car chase which not only pits their (light) grey car against several black ones, but in which they are the ones being chased!
  • The Chains of Commanding:
    • Devoe's call to enter Russian airspace ends up getting one of the choppers shot down by Russian SAMs. Even though the mission succeeded, he becomes torn up by it.
    • Dr. Kelly, his civilian counterpart, is equally distraught.
  • Car Fu: Devoe takes out several mob figures chasing them by using the armored Mercedes Benz S500 in a impromptu demolition derby. He rams one (smaller) car through an exterior wall, runs another one into an outdoor cafe, and jumps over a third one, nearly ripping of its roof in the process before finishing another one off by repeatedly ramming into them until their gas tank ruptures and catches fire.
  • Central Theme:
    • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell - and a better examination of it than most. The Americans are simultaneously relieved the Cold War is over and exasperated that such a mess was left behind. The Russians are asking So What Do We Do Now?. The small countries that had been their battlefield are left with lots of combat experience, and just as much reason to use it on the people responsible for it. The result is a terrorist attack on New York. Umm... Ouch?
    • Just below this is a thoughtful undertone of how Russia really was under Soviet rule; Obstructive Bureaucrats and Corrupt Politicians who were immune to their obstruction - and how America is no different when it comes to how they treated their pawns.
      Dimitri Vertikoff: Kodoroff's generation of officers grew up in a crumbling system. Those pictures in your head of Russia; bread lines, shitty little apartments, ancient cars... Kodoroff and his friends made sure that it never applied to them. But now, even that system is crumbling.
      Aleksandr Kodoroff: I don't care what bitch gave birth to them; Muslim, Serb. I don't hate them for who they are. I hate them because they are poor.
      Devoe: Sir, it's not our war.
      Dusan Gavrić: It is now.
  • Cold Sniper: Averted. The protagonists miss an opportunity to kill Gavrić because the rooftop sniper didn't have a clean shot and couldn't bring himself to shoot through a mother carrying a child to hit his target.
  • Colonel Badass: Devoe.
  • Communications Officer: CPN Beach is arguably one.
  • Dangerous Deserter: General Aleksandr Kodoroff - he starts out mad, bad, and dangerous to know. And that's before the credits finish.
  • Death from Above/I Can See You: Invoked by Devoe, who knows Kodoroff is in a long line of trucks at the Iranian border they can see on a live satellite feed, but they can't tell which one. Devoe rings up Kodoroff's mobile and makes him think there's a guided missile coming down on him right now, causing Kodoroff to pull out of the line and give away his position.
  • Defiant to the End: Kodoroff.
  • Desk Jockey: Devoe's AF NCO buddy who's been listening in on satellites.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Gavrić crossed it when his wife and daughter died.
    "Who decided for my wife? My child, murdered, huh? For what? For what? For breathing? For smiling? And now, I am left. Who decides for me?"
  • Deadpan Snarker: Devoe is quite a smart-ass around people.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: The bomb is smuggled into New York via diplomatic pouch, so it's never checked.
  • Empty Quiver: Only regarding Russian nukes this time.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Devoe's personality is fairly well presented with his testimony before a Senate Subcommittee on the interception of a shipment of nerve gas. To note; it involved a Russian colonel friend, a hooker, and a $5,200 bar tab(that resulted in a Bar BRAWL). And he paid off the colonel by smuggling in a SUV for the colonel's teenage daughter.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Kelly and Devoe trade these back and forth, based on their specialties.
    • Kelly realizes that the initial explosion was a terrorist act because even a Russian nuke would only go off if it was purposefully detonated. As such, she specifically asks for a liaison with contacts in Russia, the easier to pick out someone who would do such a thing.
    • Devoe realizes that the train wreck was a hijacking because satellite photographs show men abandoning a second train about to collide with it - but not the one with the nuke, as everyone on it was already dead in a hijacking. He also recognizes Kodoroff as being way too important to be on a nuclear missile transport - and thus the one who set off the nuke.
    • Kelly, in turn, realizes that Kodoroff is too petty to have been acting alone - he wouldn't have stolen the nukes unless he knew he had a confirmed buyer waiting to pay for them. And she realizes that the only kind of person willing to buy obviously-stolen nukes from Kodoroff would be someone who wanted to use them. Immediately. She thus guides the team past numerous false leads to Gavrić.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: a group of Yugoslavian terrorists hire a corrupt Russian general, a (Western educated) Pakistani nuclear scientist, and their allies in the Russian Mafiya to steal a nuclear weapon for them.
    • Also the terrorist leader himself, who describes himself as "a Serb, a Croat, a Muslim," and claims to be striking on behalf of all the peoples victimized by the ethnic wars in his homeland.
    • And, in a darker spin on this trope, Kodoroff:
    Kodoroff: Fucking refugees. Azerbaijani, Georgians, Kazakhs...
    Mirich: Don't curse them.
    Kodoroff: I don't care whose bitch gave birth to them. Muslim, Serb... I hate them because they are poor.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Gavrić has a brother who carries the backpack bomb. And a wife and a daughter whose deaths sparked his Start of Darkness.
  • Every Man Has His Price: At one point, Dr. Kelly questions Colonel Devoe's ethics due to his aptness in using bribery to get things done in Eastern Europe. He returns her scorn by explaining that when in Rome, you bribe like the Romans...
  • Facial Recognition Software: Portrayed properly for the technology of the 1990's.
  • False Reassurance:
    Devoe: What do you think I am; some gung-ho stupid son-of-a-bitch?
    Kelly: No, I don't think you're stupid...
  • Fresh Clue: Colonel Devoe realizes their bomber just left because the breakfast eggs are still warm. In fact, the bomber went down one elevator just as his team was going up the other.
  • Friendly Sniper: In a minor capacity, and it's more Cold Sniper, inverted.
  • Genre Savvy: Both Devoe and Kelly, but in different and complementary ways; they each have their moments of Wrong Genre Savvy where they need the other person to straighten them out.
    • Devoe understands the transactional world of the black market and the greed that drove the Soviet system and its alumni like Kodoroff perfectly well, which allows him, among other things, to recognize that the Urals nuclear bomb wasn't an accident or a terrorist attack but an exceptionally daring heist. It also helps him predict Kodoroff's actions throughout the film reasonably well. He's completely wrong, however, to think that Kodoroff's buyer is the same kind of person.
    • Kelly, on the other hand, has a better grasp of the more emotional and irrational aspects of human behavior. This initially bites her in the ass when she and her political superiors assume that the Urals incident was a terrorist attack meant to make a political statement. However, it allows her to accurately assess the kind of person Gavrić is, and to predict his movements at the end.
    • Decently summarized early in the movie:
    Devoe: Doctor, you can run your charts and your theories all you want. In the field, this is how it works: the good guys, that's us, we chase the bad guys. And they don't wear black hats. They are, however, all alike: they demand power, and respect, and they're willing to pay top dollar to get it. And that is our highly motivated buyer.
    Kelly: What about other motivations?
    Devoe: Not important to me.
    Kelly: Whether it's important to you or not, there are people out there who don't care about money and don't give a damn about respect. People who believe the killing of innocent men and women is justified. For them it is about rage, frustration, hatred. They feel pain and they're determined to share it with the world.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-universe, so much that the German mobster uses "Hasselhoff" as his password.
  • Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee: Devoe thinks outside the box - way outside the box.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: After they attack the truck containing the warheads, one of the terrorists is stuck hanging from a cable off a bridge. They refuse to help him up until he talks.
  • I Can See You: An Invoked Trope when Devoe is watching a live satellite feed of a long line of trucks at the Iranian border, one of which contains Kodorof with a stolen nuclear warhead, but they can't tell which. So Devoe rings up Kodorof's satellite phone and gloats over how there's a smart bomb coming down on his head right now, causing Kodorof to pull his truck out of the line and give away his position.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: None of the villains, not even the Big Bad, can score a hit on any of the protagonists.
  • Irony: When IFOR finds out the last nuke is already in New York, the city is placed under lockdown to try to find Gavrić. He's carrying the warhead in a backpack, so anyone carrying one is searched, sometimes hastily and forcefully.
    Irate German tourist: Who are the fascists now?!
  • It's Personal: Unusually for this trope, we never find out what lies behind it, but it's clear that Devoe and Kodoroff hate each other's guts.
  • Ivy League for Everyone:
    • Kelly. It comes out while she and Devoe are engaged in verbal arm-wrestling.
    • Even the villain's bomb technician went to Harvard.
  • Just Plane Wrong: The helicopters used by Devoe's team when intercepting the truck carry US Air Force markings, but look to be some variant of the Dolphin/Dauphin. While some are flown by the US Coast Guard, the Air Force has never flown this helicopter; an MH-60 Pave Hawk or possibly an MH-53 Pave Low would be the helicopter of choice for this mission at the time of filming. Additionally, while the two tone green over grey camouflage pattern on the helicopters does mimic that of some A-10 paint schemes, an overall grey paint job would have been more appropriate.
  • Majored in Western Hypocrisy: The scientist who dismantles the Russian nuclear warhead for the terrorists is identified as a Pakistani national with a PhD in Astrophysics from Harvard University. Colonel Devoe wryly comments, "that's right, people, we educated half the world's terrorists."
  • Military Maverick: Devoe - see Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee above.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The murder of a Bosnian Serb politician => a plot to set off a nuclear warhead in New York City.
  • Motive Rant: Inverted. Gavrić's tape is found before the act of blowing up the UN was committed. This helps determine what act he was planning to do.
  • Oh, Crap!: Kelly gets this when Devoe reports successfully reclaiming eight nuclear warheads - because SS18 missiles have ten warheads each - one of which was set off in an attempt to cover up the theft of the other nine. That leaves one unaccounted for - in the hands of someone pissed off enough to use it.
  • Only in It for the Money: Kodoroff's motivation for the nukes' theft.
    Devoe: OK. Officially, he's an asshole. He'll do anything for money, which is good, 'cause it makes him predictable.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Nicole Kidman briefly lapses into her native Aussie accent as she yells "Take the shot!"
  • Opposing Combat Philosophies: Devoe and Kelly - who don't let it get in the way of their shared goal.
  • Outranking Your Job:
    • As a Lieutenant Colonel, Devoe conceivably is of appropriate rank for a Pentagon staff officer, however once the bullets start flying, he spends most of his time running and gunning alongside the troops assigned to him, rather than staying behind where he can see the big picture. Justified in that he is a Special Operations Lieutenant Colonel: while he is a command-level officer of normal armed forces, Special Operations soldiers are notoriously hesitant to lose their experienced officers and keep them in active soldiering posts much longer.
    • In-universe, this trope serves as a plot point early on. When Dr. Kelly is reading through the passenger manifest of the destroyed nuclear weapons train, Col. Devoe hears a name he recognizes... and immediately seizes on the fact that General Kodoroff is of far too high a rank to be personally babysitting a handful of nuclear warheads.
  • Precision F-Strike: A dying Kodoroff's response when Devoe asks him where the terrorists are headed: FUCK YOU!
  • Red Herring: Subverted with "44E" written in the comments of a recepit found by the protagonists when they trying to track the last missing warhead. At first, Kelly believes it refers to Sarajevo's longitude (44°E), where IFOR finds a taped Motive Rant for some yet-to-be-committed act in Gavrić's apartment. Combined with finding out Gavrić's is an alternate for a diplomatic delegation to a summit in New York, Kelly realizes "44E" refers to the address of the headquarters of the United Nations on East 44th Street.
  • Renegade Russian: Kodoroff is a Russian general who organizes the hijacking and theft of a nuclear weapons shipment, along with the detonation of one of the nukes to cover up said theft. He doesn't have a political agenda or higher motive, though - he's really Only in It for the Money.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Devoe goes on one when Dimitri is killed; not even caring about the papers they were stealing, just killing the assassins. Afterwards he berates himself that he got too close to someone In Harm's Way because he thought that a facilitator like Dimitri was too useful to kill out of hand.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Evenly split between both heroes and villains, with Devoe and Kodoroff on Team Enlightenment (they have a fairly transactional and consumerist view of the world, as you might expect given the way the black market and political corruption take up so much of their lives), while Kelly and Gavrić represent Team Romanticism (more able to understand idealistic, emotional, symbolic aspects of human behavior). On a bigger scale, the movie also describes (see Central Theme above) the transition away from the Cold War struggle defined by rationalistic and materialistic ideologies of communism and capitalism, and towards a post-Cold-War era of ethnic and sectarian warfare in former client states increasingly blowing back onto the West.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Exploited by Kelly. When Gavrić's initial plan to blow up the UN is interrupted, he flees and the protagonists lose track of him. Devoe bemoans he can just hide behind a dumpster and wait for the timer, but Kelly, knowing his motivation, believes he will look for a location of symbolic significance. They find him in a church.
    • The main villain's Start of Darkness occurs because a Cold Sniper shoots and kills his wife and daughter. He is unwittingly saved in New York when an American sniper refuses orders to fire because an innocent girl is in the way.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Dmitri Vertikoff is Devoe's friend and contact within the Russian military. He is killed by mobsters in his third scene, the first named character to die.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Devoe violates Russian airspace in order to stop the convoy of warheads heading to Iran.
  • Stealth Pun: Early on, Devoe lectures Kelly that the bad guys "don't wear black hats"... yet when the pair get into a car chase, they find themselves in a (light) grey Mercedes pursued by several black BMWs.
  • Straw Civilian: Averted. Kelly doesn't approve of guns or of Devoe, but she's a rounded character who holds her own.
  • Suicide Attack: Gavrić's plan to set off a nuke at the UN Headquarters as an attack of revenge against the West.
  • The Upper Crass: Kodoroff. As Vertikoff explains, he's from a generation of senior officers who were always able to game the communist system so that none of its inconveniences applied to them. While some Soviet aristocrats might have at least paid lip service to the values of their system, however, Kodoroff will do literally anything for money and quite openly admits that he hates poor people. He also has a generally unpleasant personality, and a tendency to shoot or threaten to shoot anybody he begins to find inconvenient. Or annoying. Devoe's simplistic "he's an asshole" really sums up the character very well.
  • Villainous Rescue: Twice in quick succession. Gavrić is cornered and about to be arrested by the NYPD, when his brother arrives just in time to kill them and take off. When Devoe corners him again, the brother shows up *again* and distracts them enough for Gavrić to escape.
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: A White House official says it outright - "Russia, what a fucking mess! God, I miss the Cold War."
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Gavrić turned terrorist after his wife and daughter were killed during the Yugoslav Wars.


Video Example(s):


"Russia, what a fucking mess."

A White House official says it outright - "Russia, what a fucking mess! God, I miss the Cold War."

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / WhyWeAreBummedCommunismFell

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