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As one of the most grandiose auteurs in Hollywood, James Cameron has built a reputation for lavish, big-budget productions. True Lies is the archetypal James Cameron film, following in the footsteps of such films as Aliens and The Abyss. It is a film that never takes itself too seriously, with a mixture of action and comedy. Cameron himself wrote the final screenplay as he generally has a good eye for what will play on the screen. The redeeming feature is that there is so much going on the viewer rarely has time to think, which is perfect for this film. Which is not to say that it hasn’t been thought through, on the contrary there are little details that make this worthwhile.

True Lies
True Lies is an action film in the same vein as Die Hard, with glib one-liners being thrown about before the hero blows something or someone away. The villains of the piece are basically one-dimensional, stereotypical terrorists. This was a very brave release given the extremely contentious mood towards this subject matter.  

Our hero is work-a-day computer salesman Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger), uninspiring husband to a bored wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) and absentee father to a disaffected daughter (Eliza Dushku). When he isn’t setting boring sales records at his fictitious computer sales job, Harry is a member of an ultra secret security agency, on the hunt for terrorists around the globe.

After suspecting his wife of having an affair with sleazy used car salesman (played with suitable slime by Bill Paxton), he catches them in the act and decides to set a trap to test her mettle as a spy.

Meanwhile, antiquities dealer Juno Skinner (Tia Carerre), along with international terrorist group Crimson Jihad, has plans to hijack the world. During Harry’s trap, Crimson Jihad shows up unexpectedly to kidnap the happy couple. Now Harry must explain his secret life to his wife, while they both battle to save the world.  

This disc has one of the best transfers I have yet seen on DVD. It ranks as one of the few true demo discs I have in my collection. It is presented in beautifully framed anamorphic widescreen in the OAR of 2.35:1. James Cameron is a filmmaker who uses the anamorphic frame to enhance his storytelling, not just for the sake of using it. The enhanced encoding turns a good picture into a great one.
The colour palette is stunningly saturated and blacks are strong throughout. This is an action film and the video bit rate is kept suitably high when it needs to be. It is a pristine print that stacks up favourably against any other I have seen.

True Lies
The main audio is English Dolby Digital 5.1 Soundtrack.  As you may expect, there is plenty of aggressive split surround usage and rich, deep bass. Helicopters, jets, explosions, car chases and lots of gunfire are all on the aural menu. Having said all that though, it is a well-balanced mix. You can hear every word of clichéd dialogue. There is also a Spanish Dolby Surround soundtrack.  There is nothing at all wrong with this track, but surround tracks by definition just aren’t as clear.  This disc demonstrates this fact perfectly. Notwithstanding the different language (which doesn’t have the benefit of using the actor’s themselves), the action has noticeably less clarity and definition.

Sadly, True Lies is not the most feature-packed DVD ever. On paper it doesn’t look bad, but in practice it falls a little flat.  It starts promisingly, with better-than-average CG menu. The disc contains the original movie trailer (0.30). I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t really consider features like these or picture discs worthy of classification as special features. I will make an impassioned plea to James Cameron on behalf of the general public: Please record audio commentaries for your films. As a film lover and a relentlessly exacting filmmaker, you must have tons of technical information and anecdotes about the production. As a package it’s sound sure, but for me it doesn’t add an awful lot to the sum total of the presentation.

True Lies
For all I have said about the extras, I still think that the audio/visual presentation can more than carry this disc. I have seen the U.S. (Region 1) THX certified True Lies Disc and I believe this disc leaves it for dead. The anamorphic PAL transfer is worth the price of admission alone. Overall, True Lies is a reference quality transfer of a thoroughly entertaining film, on a DVD that could have been a better package.