Dreamworks' First Dream: Ka-Pow!

NUCLEAR SCIENTIST Nicole Kidman and army intelligence officer George Clooney put aside their temperamental differences to save the world from a terrorist with a nuke. That, in a nutshell, describes the globe-hopping action-thriller The Peacemaker, the first release from the much-ballyhooed DreamWorks. No one will accuse it of breaking the mold with this one, a competent summer movie that happens to arrive in the fall. Director Mimi Leder, a veteran of ""ER,'' starts things with a bang, strikingly staging a train hijacking in which 10 nuclear warheads are stolen by a renegade Russian general--and an 11th explodes. In its set pieces--a car-crushing shoot-out in Vienna, a wild bomb hunt in New York--""Peacemaker'' fills the mindless-action-movie quota quite stylishly.

The trouble is, ""The Peacemaker'' thinks it has a mind. (As proof of its seriousness, it dispenses with a star romance.) It's the first studio movie to touch upon the war in Bosnia, but it does this so meretriciously that you wish it had stuck to fantasy. Most egregious is its piano-playing Serb villain, to whom the movie attempts to give tragic depths by showing us his daughter's death by snipers. (In Sarajevo, it wasn't Serbs who were killed by sniper fire.) Nothing about this man--his motives, his odd politics--makes any sense. Leder tries to bring a sense of grief to a body-count-happy genre, but you can't have it both ways. Every time Kidman and Clooney take a break from their movie-star bantering to mourn a death, it rings hollow. You don't cast Nicole Kidman as a nuclear scientist and then expect the audience to furrow its brow over world events. Where's mindlessness when we really need it?