Eye For Film >> Movies >> True Lies (1994) Film Review
Reviewed by: Stephen Carty
Having proved time again that he’s the king of the thinking man’s action movie (not to mention the world), James Cameron decided it was about time he threw something funny in the ring. Thankfully, though the action-comedy is notoriously difficult to get right, ‘Iron’ Jim embraces the genre with entertaining zest and manages to balance some truly adrenalin-pumping set pieces with plenty of funnier-than-expected giggles.
Though he’s been a top secret agent for 15 years, Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has kept it secret from his wife, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) and daughter, Dana (Eliza Dushku). However, while investigating a dangerous terrorist (Art Malik) with his partner Albert (Tom Arnold), Harry suspects Helen is having an affair with the mysterious Simon (Bill Paxton).
Of course, re-teaming with Terminating-chum Arnold Schwarzenegger assures the picture of a certain level of action. As with their previous collaborations (The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day) the guns, explosions and fighting are plot-necessary as well as adding to the excitement without having to dumb-down. We also have harrier jets, Uzi 9mms, an inventive toilet shoot-out and some truly exhilarating chase scenes. In particular, the bridge scene where Harry tries to catch Helen will have you gasping for breath afterwards (probably just by looking at her dress).
What might puzzle the viewers enjoying the bodycount is the slightly unconventional structure of the movie. After the first third blows us away with excitement, Cameron switches gears to concentrate on an examination of Harry and Helen’s marriage and places the ‘evil terrorist’ thread on the back-burner for a prolonged spell. Though this section works as well as any other in the movie, it’s worth noting as the average viewer will probably complain it takes the movie away from the bangs for too long. If that’s your thing, go and watch a Jerry Bruckheimer movie instead.
True Lies might not be what many expect from James Cameron (given that it’s not thought-provoking or full of copious amounts of water) but it’s undoubtedly entertaining. Though occasionally bordering on silly (the attempted horse roof-jump springs to mind) the movie never takes itself completely seriously and will have viewers grinning all the way from start to finish. That it’s as funny as it is, stems from Cameron’s spy genre-nodding clever script and lots of subtle delivery from both Arnold and, er, Tom Arnold (this could get confusing). Tom Arnold might not be the sort of actor you’d expect to populate a James Cameron movie – nor for that matter an Arnold Schwarzenegger one – but given the tone here he fits in perfectly.
While super-spy Harry Tasker won’t be one of Schwarzenegger’s most memorable role, it should definitely satisfy the group that strangely championed the Austrian as an outsider to become the next James Bond. In support, other Cameron regular Paxton (as well as a helicopter with lights, we know James loves his helicopters with lights) gives a fantastic self-deprecating turn as the moustachioed Simon. As enduring wife Helen, Curtis shows perfect measures (wink wink) of naivety and sexiness, Dushku is suitably rebellious as Dana and Tina Carrere plays a morally bankrupt art-dealer to a tee. In other roles, Malik burns the camera lens with his intense stare as terrorist Aziz, Grant Heslov is witty and wide-eyed as the newest addition to Harry’s team and Charlton Heston is inspired as the patch-wearing Spencer Trilby.
Action-packed, funny and full of spot-on performances, True Lies is another impressive addition to James Cameron’s already impressive resume. Movie with robots from the future? Check. Movie with hoardes of savage aliens? Check. Movie with a horse in an elevator? Now he can check that one of the list, too.Reviewed on: 08 Dec 2008