Saturday, March 24, 2018

True Lies

True Lies; action comedy, USA, 1994; D: James Cameron, S: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Art Malik, Tia Carrere, Bill Paxton, Eliza Dushku, Charlton Heston

Washington. Harry is a seemingly ordinary, boring computer salesman, living with his wife Helen and daughter Dana (14). However, unbeknownst to them, he is actually a spy working for the US government, teaming up with Albert to defend his country. His private life takes a major blow when he finds out that Helen is having an affair—with Simon, a car salesman who pretends he is a spy to seduce her. Realising Helen yearns for some excitement, Harry gives her a fake spy assignment. This is interrupted when they are both abducted by Abu Aziz's men, the "Crimson Jihad", a group of Islamic fundamentalists who want to detonate nuclear bombs across the US unless the American army withdraws from the Persian Gulf. Together with his team, Harry manages to escape and stop the "Crimson Jihad", while his wife Helen becomes his new spy partner.

Legend has it that when the producers of the new James Bond film attended the early screening of "True Lies", they said to each other: "It's going to be hard to top this one!" James Cameron's only comedy, a remake of Zidi's '91 French film "La Totale!", the first film with a budget of over a 100 million $, "True Lies" is a virtuoso action spectacle from start to finish, whose level just keeps rising the longer its running time—seldom will the viewers get a chance to see such a quality loud big budget action film that puts almost all James Bond films to shame, on all fronts. As expected, Cameron is a master in conjuring up a 'tour-de-force' demonstration of action sequences, yet the film gains an additional plus and spark by also showing the protagonist's private life, which enriches the story: there is a huge irony that he was hiding that he is a spy from his wife, only to find out that she has an affair with a man pretending to be a spy.

Humorous moments arrive swiftly and in the most unexpected places, and are a delight to watch: in the opening act, when Harry says goodbye to his wife in their home, he hurriedly kisses her on the cheek and runs away, while she just remains there standing, and—in a delayed reaction—makes a kissing expression with her lips all alone. Another sequence has Harry jealously observing Simon from his car, and in anger, Harry's glass in binoculars shatters. As Helen drops her gun, it falls down stairs and randomly shoots, until it kills all the bad guys in a moment of serendipity. The burlesque goes so far that it even features one almost "Hot Shots"-like gag in which the vehicle of the Islamic fundamentalists stops at the edge of a destroyed bridge, but then, out of nowhere, a fat pelican lands on it, tipping the vehicle to fall into the sea. After his underrated film "Last Action Hero" failed to attract the audience in the cinemas, Arnold Schwarzenegger returned to top shape with a more balanced mix of comedy and action, delivering a charming performance, in what is probably his last truly great film, whereas Jamie Lee Curtis is excellent in the role of Helen, with her erotic dance in the middle of the film being an extra highlight. Even though the ending is slightly rushed, this cannot corrode the already established high impression: "True Lies" gives one giant action spectacle as a therapy for the couple's marital crisis.


No comments: