Undercover Husband

Around seven years prior to True Lies, action star Sylvester Stallone headed into Afghanistan to fight a Russian invasion in Rambo III. That was still the Cold War period. Schwarzenegger, in comparison, went into True Lies fighting a nondescript Middle Eastern foe, with the name “Crimson Jihad,” just in case the random barks of Arabic weren’t enough.

True Lies is typically farcical, a nonsense, pulp action flick that doesn’t need to deepen its opponents. It’s a script that says little and does little; True Lies just needs something for Schwarzenegger to shoot, so True Lies uses the most obvious, generic post-Desert Storm villain to save time.

True Lies just needs something for Schwarzenegger to shoot

So utterly meaningless are the villains, the entire middle act ignores them, turning True Lies into an absolutely absurd marriage spy comedy that, even with peak Jamie Lee Curtis, stops the entire movie cold for a grueling false interrogation from Schwarzenegger, her on-screen husband. True Lies plays this all for awkward laughs, and some it gets.

James Cameron writes and directs, giving his movie a touch of Bond and a dab of Die Hard. True Lies’ entire finale, with Schwarzenegger piloting a Harrier jet, would be borrowed by Live Free Die Hard some time later. In that sense, True Lies left an impression.

Numerous movies use this same setup, where a spouse is a super spy of some sort, while their wives live a meandering suburban existence. The difference here is that of scale and notable humor that brings back visions of Hot Shots Part Deux, like the villain slamming their groin on fin of a jet before being shot from the scene attached to a missile.

Considering True Lies’ place in history, it’s effectively a send-off film for Schwarzenegger’s action career. He had a few decent thrillers afterward (Eraser, The 6th Day), but mostly found himself caught in the likes of Junior or Batman and Robin. Cameron directed the last movie of its kind, still holding onto the fantasy action that dominated the ‘80s, but with a technical sheen that brought the genre into the modern day. Soon, Michael Bay’s flash took hold, and put movies like this in the past. True Lies wasn’t visual showmanship, nor was it particularly grounded. It was brain-dead action teetering on parody. That’s something the late Die Hard sequels never quite understood.

Video

What little film texture that remains in True Lies does weird things. It follows and sticks to people. It looks like noise. Watch the weirdness early at 5:55-ish as Arnie walks through a room near some sculptures – grain creates an odd striped pattern across Schwarzenegger’s face. The rest isn’t much better. It’s worse actually.

True Lies isn’t Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition degrees of awful or Universal’s first Tremors Blu-ray. Instead, True Lies is one tier above those discs, mostly due to a lack of visible ringing/edge enhancement. However, the noise reduction looks appalling. Faces smear as they move, detail is sandpapered away… err, not sandpaper. That would leave behind texture. It’s more like buffed away. The trick used is that occasionally, in close, facial definition can thrive. Even still, there’s an unusual flatness even here, whether it’s hair that becomes a blob of goo or a glossiness that clearly isn’t in reality. Anything shot with a soft focus ends in watercolor-like disaster.

Medium and long shots suffer the most, the noise reduction sucking life from those as the tech can’t handle such intricate elements. There too the waxiness reaches its most severe. The leftover (or added) grain simulates texture but fails as it turns to ugly noise on walls. Whatever looked natural about True Lies before was eliminated from this master. The only time True Lies visually works is in close, where inconsistently, high-grade texture can break out, those moments where there’s simply too much texture to eradicate. The appearance is still glossy and imprecise, but firm enough to notice.

Of the Cameron Three that includes Abyss and Aliens, True Lies has the best Dolby Vision pass. A point for that but not much else. The searchlights bouncing off snow and flashlights offer a satisfying vibrancy that while not the greatest on the format, does bring a bit of pop. Color remains generally inoffensive, although flesh tones steer toward a rather uncomfortable crayon-like peach hue on occasion.

Audio

A wonderful Atmos track is the best thing about this disc. Action spreads wide and far, with debris fields from gunfire spreading to the rears and overheads (and the gunfire too). Helicopter rotors throb in the low-end, while the overheads catch them flying by brilliantly. In command centers, keyboards clack in each channel to create ambiance even away from the action. Inside the interrogation room, speakers bounce the voice in every direction.

By the finale, with Harrier jets buzzing overhead, their engines roaring and guns firing as missiles fly past, it’s an aural reference sequence. A touch more low-end heft couldn’t hurt though.

Extras

One new bonus is a collection of interviews that run 44-minutes, some new, some pulled from legacy sources. This is interspersed with various behind-the-scenes clips and worth a watch (if not the all-out special edition worthy of the wait). A slideshow runs through numerous still images, script pages, and more. Then, a trailer.

True Lies
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Fun, playful, and energetic, True Lies has a blast with the action genre as it plays with cliches.

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User Review
3.33 (3 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 49 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:


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