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True LiesTrue Lies on DVD

Out-Bonding James

by Jim Bray

James Cameron's "True Lies" is an action adventure/comedy/romance that pairs Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis as a long-married couple that not only doesn't communicate, they barely seem to be on the same planet.

That's because, since before Harry (Schwarzenegger) and Helen (Curtis) Tasker met, Harry has been a member of the Omega Sector, a super-secret spy organization bent on making America safe for America.

Harry just can't keep a date with his wife and daughter, because assorted bad guys and gals keep rearing their ugly heads and he's forced after them, leaving Helen and young Dana home to twist in the wind.

Fed up, Helen decides she needs a bit of excitement in her bland existence, and this leads eventually to her and Harry being thrown together to fight some terrorists who've stolen some nuclear weapons and are going to use them on selected US cities.

The good guys eventually win, Harry and Helen's marriage is renewed, and everyone ends up happy except for the terrorists (who have it coming, anyway).

Tom Arnold give a terrific performance as Harry's sidekick, and he's responsible for a lot of the film's generous doses of comedy relief. Arnold is a really underrated performer, and it's a shame his career hasn't been more successful. Charlton Heston is beautifully cast as the head of Omega Sector, someone intimidating enough to cow even Arnold Schwarzenegger.

James Cameron's famed attention to detail is all over this film (how often does James Bond have to pause to reload?) and the stunts and special effects are spectacular. Digital Domain (Cameron and Stan Winston's special effects company) provides some of the best matte shots ever (at least until "Star Wars Episode One"), putting cast in peril atop a Miami high-rise with nary a matte line in sight.

The widescreen 20th Century Fox DVD is of very good quality, though it looks like a straight transfer from the original laserdisc release - and worse still it isn't anamorphic! That's not a completely bad thing, however, because it received Lucasfilm's THX treatment back then and was one of the first (if not the first) laserdiscs released in Dolby Digital AC-3 sound. But it needs to be 16x9 TV compatible!

Picture quality is excellent, though a bit soft in places, and the audio is also excellent. Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, Fox decided to make the film default to Dolby Pro Logic sound, so you if you want to take advantage of the superior Dolby Digital soundtrack you have to switch it on from the main menu.


You don't get much in the way of extras on this DVD, either. There's the theatrical trailer and chapter access, but other than that there's only yet another fancy but timewasting animated menu and the various language choices. Liner notes are restricted to a chapter listing and a few small stills.

I don't know if there's a bunch of extra footage laying around, as there is so often with James Cameron films, but there are no "Director's Cut" extras like there are with Aliens and T2.

Still, True Lies is a ripping yarn that, while it goes on a bit long regarding Harry and Helen's marriage troubles, is a must see for Cameron, Schwarzenegger, and James Bond movie fans.

True Lies, from 20th Century Fox, 141 minutes, widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital
starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Tia Carrere, Art Malik, Bill Paxton, and Charlton Heston
Written by James Cameron, Adapted from a screenplay by Claude Didl, Simon Michael and Didier Kaminka, Produced by James Cameron and Stephanie Austin Directed by James Cameron


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Updated May 13, 2006