True Lies is a 1994 American action comedy film written and directed by James Cameron. It was executive produced by Lawrence Kasanoff and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Art Malik, Tia Carrere, Bill Paxton, Eliza Dushku, Grant Heslov and Charlton Heston. It is based on the 1991 French comedy film La Totale! The film follows U.S. government agent Harry Tasker (Schwarzenegger), who struggles to balance his double life as a spy with his familial duties.
True Lies was the first Lightstorm Entertainment project to be distributed under Cameron's multimillion-dollar production deal with 20th Century Fox, as well as the first major production for the visual effects company Digital Domain, which was co-founded by Cameron. It was also the first film to cost $100 million.
Harry Tasker leads a double life: to his legal secretary wife Helen and his rebellious daughter Dana, he is a boring computer salesman often away on business trips, while in actuality he is a secret agent for a U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence agency named Omega Sector. Harry, along with fellow Agents Albert "Gib" Gibson and Faisil, infiltrate a party in Switzerland hosted by billionaire Jamal Khaled, where Harry meets attractive art dealer Juno Skinner. Eventually they learn that Juno is not only Khaled's art dealer, but that she is being paid by a Islamic terrorism group called "Crimson Jihad", led by Salim Abu Aziz. Harry visits her undercover as a potential buyer to learn more, leading Aziz and his men to attempt to kill him. Harry fights them off, but loses Aziz in pursuit. As a result, he misses the birthday party that his wife and daughter had planned for him.
Harry goes to Helen's office the next day to smooth things over and surprise her for lunch, but overhears her making secret arrangements to meet a man named Simon. Suspecting Helen is having an affair, he uses Omega Sector resources to learn that Simon is a used car salesman who pretends to be a covert agent to flirt with women. In disguise, Harry and other Omega agents kidnap Helen and Simon. After terrifying Simon into keeping away from Helen, Harry and Gib interrogate Helen using a voice masking device and learn that she is desperately seeking adventure because of Harry's constant absences. Harry thus arranges for Helen to participate in a staged spy mission, where she is to seduce a mysterious figure (who is actually Harry himself) and plant a bug in his hotel room. Aziz's men suddenly burst in, kidnap the couple, and take them to an island in the Florida Keys.
On the island, Harry's suspicions about Juno are confirmed: Crimson Jihad paid her to help them smuggle four stolen MIRV nuclear warheads into the country by hiding them in priceless antique statues. Aziz demands that the United States remove all U.S. military forces from the Persian Gulf forever or else he will detonate a warhead each week in a major U.S. city. He also says he will detonate one warhead on the uninhabited island to demonstrate that Crimson Jihad is a nuclear power. Before he and Helen are tortured, Harry is administered a truth serum and confesses his double life to Helen. They escape to watch as one warhead is set to explode in 90 minutes and the others are loaded onto vehicles to be taken into the U.S. via the Overseas Highway, thus bypassing U.S. Customs. Harry and Helen get separated in the ensuing melee where Harry kills most of the terrorists, but Aziz gets away with one of the warheads. Helen is caught by Juno and taken in a limousine following the convoy. Gib and other Omega agents pick up Harry and they use two Marine Harrier Jump Jets to stop the convoy by destroying part of the Seven Mile Bridge. Harry rescues Helen from Juno's limo before it careens into the ocean below, killing Juno.
The warhead left on the island detonates in front of the public without killing anyone. Gib tells Harry Aziz and his men are holding Dana hostage in a downtown Miami skyscraper and are threatening to detonate their last warhead. Harry commandeers one of the Harriers to rescue his daughter. Faisil gets into the building by posing as part of a news team requested by Aziz. When he kills several of Aziz's men, Dana steals the missile control key and flees to the building's roof, eventually climbing a tower crane and threatening to drop the key to the street. Aziz pursues and nearly catches her before Harry arrives. Harry rescues a shocked Dana and after a tense struggle with Aziz, he eventually has him ensnared on the end of one of the plane's missiles, which Harry fires at a terrorist helicopter, killing Aziz and the remnants of Crimson Jihad. Harry, Helen, and Dana are then safely reunited.
A year later, Harry and Helen are working together as Omega agents. While on a mission at a formal party, they encounter Simon, working as a waiter and pretending to be a spy as before. He runs away in fear after they reveal themselves and threaten to kill him. They dance a passionate tango while waiting for their contact and with Gib pleading with them to take their work seriously.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as Harry Tasker / Harry Rehnquist
- Jamie Lee Curtis as Helen Tasker
- Tom Arnold as Albert "Gib" Gibson
- Art Malik as Salim Abu Aziz
- Bill Paxton as Simon
- Tia Carrere as Juno Skinner
- Eliza Dushku as Dana Tasker
- Grant Heslov as Faisil
- Charlton Heston as Director Spencer Trilby
- Marshall Manesh as Jamal Khaled
- James Allen as Colonel
- Ofer Samra as Yusef
Schwarzenegger stated that while filming a scene with a horse, a camera boom hit the horse and "it went crazy, spinning and rearing" near a drop of 90 feet. Schwarzenegger quickly slid off the horse and stuntman Billy D. Lucas (who was one of Arnold's main doubles and closest friends) caught him; he concluded, "[this is] why I will always love stunt people". Costing $100–120 million to produce, True Lies was the first film with a production budget of over $100 million. It was filmed over a seven-month schedule.
According to co-star Eliza Dushku during the MeToo and Time's Up movement, she revealed that when she was twelve while making this movie she was sexually molested by the film's stunt coordinator, Joel Kramer. Soon after that, an adult friend of Dushku confronted Kramer on set, and that the same day, Dushku was injured during a stunt and several of her ribs were broken, while Kramer was responsible for her safety. Kramer has denied the accusation of sexual misconduct. Dushku's co-stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Arnold and director James Cameron all later tweeted their respect and admiration for Dushku's bravery.
Of the many locations that were used in the film, the Rosecliff Mansion was used for the ballroom tango scenes in the beginning of the film and the exterior of the Swiss chalet that Harry Tasker infiltrates is Ochre Court. The ballroom dancing scene that closes the film, as well as the scenes in the lobby of the fictional Hotel Marquis in Washington, take place in the Crystal Ballroom of the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The outdoor structures used by Aziz's smuggling ring as a base of operations were a series of custom made Alaska Structures fabric buildings, leased to the production crew during filming.
- Main article: True Lies (soundtrack)
This was the first film to use the 1994 20th Century Fox logo and fanfare composed by Bruce Broughton.
Songs appearing in the film not included on the soundtrack album:
- "I Never Thought I'd See the Day" – Sade
- "More Than a Woman" – Bee Gees
- "The Blue Danube" – The Philadelphia Orchestra
- "Por una Cabeza" – Argentinean tango, performed by The Tango Project
True Lies was a box-office success. Opening in 2,368 theaters in the United States and Canada, it ranked number one at the US box office in its opening weekend, grossing $25,869,770. It was the number one film in Japan for twelve straight weeks. It went on to gross $146,282,411 in the United States and Canada and $232,600,000 in the rest of world, totaling $378,882,411 worldwide, making it third highest-grossing movie of 1994.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 71% based on 52 reviews, and an average score of 6.60/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "If it doesn't reach the heights of director James Cameron's and star Arnold Schwarzenegger's previous collaborations, True Lies still packs enough action and humor into its sometimes absurd plot to entertain". On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 63 out of 100 based on reviews from 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four, writing, "It's stuff like that we go to Arnold Schwarzenegger movies for, and True Lies has a lot of it: laugh-out-loud moments when the violence is so cartoonish we don't take it seriously, and yet are amazed at its inventiveness and audacity." He wrote that he found the plot "perfunctory", but praised the film's stunts and special effects.
The film was criticized by the National Review as sexist, cruel, or even misogynistic, for its treatment of female characters, such as the hero (Schwarzenegger) using his agency's resources to stalk and frighten his wife. Some Muslims perceived the film as conveying a strong anti-Arab or anti-Muslim prejudice, with some wanting it banned.
In a negative review, Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote:
- Taken individually, the cruder and childish things about this film, its determination to use caricatured unshaven Arabs as terrorists, the pleasure it takes in continually mortifying a weasely used-car salesman (Bill Paxton) in the most personal ways, might be overlooked, but added together they leave a sour taste.