A fearless, globe-trotting, terrorist-battling secret agent has his life turned upside down when he discovers his wife might be having an affair with a used car salesman while terrorists smuggle nuclear war heads into the United States.
Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) leads a double life. At work he is a government agent with a license to do just about anything, while at home he pretends to be a dull computer salesman. He is on the trail of stolen nuclear weapons that are in the hands of fanatic terrorists when something more important comes up. Harry finds his wife is seeing another man (Bill Paxton) because she needs some adventure in her life. Harry decides to give it to her, juggling pursuit of terrorists on one hand and an adventure for his wife on the other while showing he can Tango all at once. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
James Cameron: [White Frame] When Helen punches Harry in the face, a single solid white frame is spliced in at the moment of impact. This film trick accurately conveys the flash a person sees when they get hit in the head. It was also used in The Abyss (1989) when Cat punches Coffey in the face, and in Terminator 2 (1991) when Sarah clocks Douglas in the face with the mop handle. See more »
When Helen rebuffs Simon's advances in the trailer, one of the empty wine glasses on the coffee table falls over. When Harry's team enters the trailer moments later, the wine glasses are not only upright, but refilled. See more »
In the middle of the credits, Gib (who's waiting outside in the stereotypical spy van as Harry's having fun inside the party) says, "You know what? I'm sick of being in the van. You guys can be in the van next time. I've been in the van for fifteen years, Harry." See more »
An extremely entertaining action movie that, for some reason, I like but don't love.
*** out of ****
I've seen True Lies at least four times now, and every time I find myself having a great time watching this first-rate action/comedy/thriller. But it's a movie that I can't muster more than passable (but occasionally fairly ecstatic) enthusiasm for. It's a very good action movie, and I can certainly see how it's attained a reputation as one of the best adrenaline-pumping rides of the 90's, but it's not great.
What True Lies has is one of the more ingenious action movie premises I've seen. Arnold Schwarzenegger is Harry Tasker, a husband (to Jamie Lee Curtis) and father (to Eliza Dushku) by day, and world-saving CIA agent by night (or day, it depeneds). His latest assignment puts him on the case of a mad Islamic terrorist called Aziz, who's retrieved several nuclear warheads and plans to set them off on U.S. soil if his group's demands are not met. Complicating matters for Harry is the inclusion of his wife, Helen, whom he believes is having an affair with a used car salesman (Bill Paxton, in what's got to be his funniest performance).
In terms of pure escapist enjoyment, this is actually James Cameron's most successful film. True Lies is probably the only Cameron film that never suffers from the slightest hiccup in pacing (yes, Aliens had a slow beginning and viewing The Abyss was like watching molasses sliding down a brick wall). From beginning to end, there's not a single slow spot, as you can expect either a sharply staged action sequence or comical setpiece around every corner. To keep such momentum up for 141 minutes is pretty damn amazing, and Cameron must be given credit for making such a long movie almost so effortlessly enjoyable.
But for all that is so enjoyable about it, True Lies lacks a strong plot (in terms of action, as the romantic subplot is actually quite excellent). The villains are stereotypical terrorists, pure cartoons who don't even make an impression as cool villains. In his heyday, Arnold has battled tons of memorable villains (T-1000 and the Predator stand out), the terrorists here are clearly among the weakest of Arnold's foes to date.
The action is suitably over-the-top, especially the harrier jet climax, which makes almost all the action that came before it believable in comparison. But the action is mostly excellent, the shootouts and fistfights are exciting, there's plenty of cliffhanger thrills, and the chase/catfight set on the lengthy bridge is classic.
The movie has to keep a balance between strong violence and screwball humor, which it pulls off very well. The half-hour segment devoted entirely to Harry's marital problems is hilarious, its only flaw being the abrupt segue to "typical" Arnold action. Even when Arnold's taking down massive armies of terrorists, Cameron still maintains the same light tone evident during the comical scenes, while still keeping the action thrilling. That's quite an accomplishment.
The cast is all excellent, given the material and intent. Schwarzenegger is still the extremely likeable big lug. These roles aren't a stretch for him, but he excels at such parts because he radiates charisma like no other actor (even if they may all be better than him when it comes to talent). As the comic relief, Tom Arnold is surprisingly very funny (since then, it hasn't been so surprising as he's actually provided decent humor in those Andrzej Bartkowiak films, or however you spell the guy's name). Jamie Lee Curtis is wonderful, too, and I've never been a big fan of hers. Without a doubt, this is easily her most winning performance.
One of the big box-office hits of 1994, I was surprised to see True Lies didn't inspire any genuine imitators. Just as well, I suppose, there's only so much Bond "parody" you can see without the material getting tiresome (Austin Powers, anyone?). But True Lies' charms lies in that it works as parody while still excelling as a straight action thriller. When it comes to pure direction, that's proof James Cameron can be a genius.
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