True Lies

Director James Cameron and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger are a good match. Arnold is larger than life and he needs a director who can paint on a canvas that is equally enormous. “Terminator” and “Terminator 2” proved that these two were in sync, but it was the epic spy adventure “True Lies” that proved there was life for these two together beyond killer androids.


trueliesThe one thing I like about James Cameron as a director is that he never thinks small. Everything he does has an epic look to it. His two sequels, “Aliens” and “Terminator 2” shook both of the originals off their foundations. “True Lies” is the best of the James Bond films with a domestic angle. Arnold plays Harry, a man who leads two lives. At home he is the devoted husband who works at a computer company as a salesman. In reality, Harry is a spy for a United States government agency. Try telling that to his lovely wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis at her best) and his daughter, who think dad is pretty square. “True Lies” was written by Cameron from a French comedy, and there is a fair amount of humor in this action-adventure. The film begins with one of those grand James Bond nods. Undercover, Harry infiltrates a private party in Switzerland in order to secure some top secret information. When his presence is discovered, his escape becomes one close call after another. He’s chased by hungry Dobermans and bad guys on skis and snow mobiles, but due to his superior training, he manages to escape unscathed. Back home, Harry tells his family some boring story about the computer convention he attended. The next day, Harry and his partner Gib (Tom Arnold, in top form) learn that the man they have been tracing is a terrorist who plans to detonate a nuclear bomb on U.S. soil. That means Harry has to work overtime, causing a rift in his marriage. Feeling vulnerable, Helen falls for the charms of a slimy car salesman passing himself off as a secret agent. The salesman (Bill Paxton, another Cameron favorite) convinces Helen that he needs her to pose as his wife during an undercover assignment, an assignment she reluctantly accepts. Thinking that his wife is having an affair, Harry takes time off from his busy schedule to tail Helen. How Harry resolves this plot thread provides the film with just one of its many pleasures. What I really appreciated about “True Lies” was that it was totally politically incorrect, and Cameron makes no apologies. Instead, he creates cartoon situations that can’t be taken seriously, even though they are a lot of fun. Animal activists complained when Harry stopped two charging Dobermans by knocking their heads together. So what! It was funny and unexpected. As punishment for her near close encounter with the car salesman, Harry gives Helen an assignment of his own. She’s forced to go undercover as a call girl, and her transformation from the staid Helen to the hooker is amazing. Then she’s requested to do a strip tease for the client (Harry hiding in the shadows), which is one of the funniest bits I have ever seen. By making this moment funny Cameron skirts a lot of feminist issues, but there was still backlash. Tough. The terrorists are Arabs, which is always a sore point, but I say if the finger print on the detonator fits, then quit whining. In the course of events, it works and is even vital to the story. Cameron’s screenplay ends with Harry and Helen being kidnaped and escorted to the terrorists hide out in the Florida Keys. There, all hell breaks loose as Helen learns that her husband has been lying to her all this time. There’s also the issue of the nuclear weapon, which has been activated and buried under quick drying cement. How Arnold saves the day (and his daughter) with the help of a Harrier jet makes for one slam-bang finale. Cameron also fleshes out his films with interesting background characters, and “True Lies” is no different. There isn’t a bad performance in the film, with Schwarzenegger and Curtis showing what true star power is. Comic relief is important to the action, and both Tom Arnold and Bill Paxton are priceless. Tom Arnold is absolutely hilarious as the side kick with am opinion on everything. Art Malik is appropriately vile as the head terrorists, while Tia Carrere does nicely as the femme fatale. There is so much invention and over-the-top action in “True Lies” that the film never falters. Cameron understands the difference between rehashing cliches and reinventing them. Just when you think you have the plot figured out, Cameron takes an unexpected turn and surprises you. Technically, the film is a marvel. Russell Carpenter’s cinematography is bold and beautiful, while the visual effects by Digital Domain are absolutely amazing. Brad Fiedel’s musical score puts the emphasis on the action, while a trio of editors contribute to the film’s bullet pace. Five years after its release “True Lies” is still as fresh and entertaining. It’s a competent piece of filmmaking that stands up to the test of time.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ X ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Simply breathtaking widescreen digital transfer, delivered in the film’s original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio. From the first frame to the last, the digital transfer delivers the goods. The images are sharp and vivid, the colors strong with excellent saturation. Flesh tones are so natural the characters appear three dimensional, while the blacks are industrial strength. Attention to detail is amazing, and the transfer manages to capture some difficult scenes with little struggle. Clarity is excellent, and so is depth of field. No noticeable compression artifacts, and a clean negative allows for stunning and clean images. Whites and shadows are appropriately pure. Just an amazing transfer all around.

HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Close the windows and shut the doors, because “True Lies” is one DVD you’re going to want to crank up the volume in order to fully appreciate the 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack. With thunderous basses and clear as crystal high ends, the sound comes through with a sincerity that is uncommon. Stereo effects, especially left to right, are outstanding, while the front to rear spatial separation sounds exact. Surround effects are especially impressive, filling the room with exciting ambient noise and the booming sounds of Brad Fidel’s musical score. The rear speakers come alive throughout the entire film, while the dialogue mix is so sharp you can hear every word above the destruction and carnage. No noticeable audio hiss or distortion.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor

Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing, subtitles in Spanish.

COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ ] Good [ X ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

Not much here except for the standard issue main and scene access menus, plus the film’s original theatrical trailer.

PROGNOSIS: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

Go out and snag a copy of this excellent DVD. Would I lie to you?

VITALS: $29.99/Rated R/141 Minutes/Color/44 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#4111054

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: TRUE LIES

BIRTH DATE: 1994

HMO: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment



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