True Lies Digital UHD Review

4 Stars Finally
True Lies Review

After years of waiting, James Cameron’s True Lies arrives in a satisfactory but not stellar 4K transfer on digital PVOD services.

True Lies (1994)
Released: 15 Jul 1994
Rated: R
Runtime: 141 min
Director: James Cameron
Genre: Action, Comedy, Thriller
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold
Writer(s): James Cameron, Claude Zidi, Simon Michaël
Plot: A fearless, globe-trotting, terrorist-battling secret agent has his life turned upside down when he discovers his wife might be having an affair with a used-car salesman while terrorists smuggle nuclear war heads into the United S...
IMDB rating: 7.3
MetaScore: 63

Disc Information
Studio: Disney
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: Dolby Atmos
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: R
Run Time: 2 Hr. 21 Min.
Package Includes: Digital Copy
Case Type: N/A
Disc Type: Other
Region: A
Release Date: 12/12/2023
MSRP: $24.99

The Production: 3.5/5

True Lies is an interesting and at the time somewhat refreshing take on the spy movie made so popular with the James Bond franchise. Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is super spy Harry Tasker, trying to infiltrate the estate of a suspected arms dealer during an extravagant dinner party in the Swiss Alps, even dancing the tango with antiquities dealer Juno Skinner (Tia Carrere) while the rest of his team, consisting of partner Gib (Tom Arnold) and tech specialist Faisil (Grant Heslov), monitor the situation in a surveillance van. After a hair-raising escape (which many critics at the time praised as one of the best “James Bond” prologues), Harry and the team arrive back in the US, where Harry assumes the life of a mild-mannered computer salesman living with his bored and also mild-mannered wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) and teenage daughter Dana (Eliza Dushku) in suburban Washington, D.C.

Thinking there may be a connection between Juno and terrorist Salim Abu Aziz (Art Malik), Harry resumes his identity from the Swiss Alps mission to meet with Juno at her offices in Washington. Unbeknownst to Harry, Aziz is there at the office, eventually leading to a thrilling chase though the streets and a hotel in Washington, with Aziz on motorcycle and Harry on horseback. Meanwhile, Helen is having secret lunch dates with Simon (Bill Paxton), a used car salesman posing as a spy in an attempt to seduce Helen. This eventually leads to both Harry and Helen being kidnapped by Aziz, where he lays out his evil plans to Harry, to detonate nuclear warheads on American soil.

As entertaining as True Lies often is, this is not one of my favorite movies from James Cameron, and most of that stems from how cruel Harry often is to his wife Helen, particularly in the hotel room striptease sequence. It seems harmless and funny at first, but when you begin to process it, it begins to come off as rather misogynistic, and Harry’s attitude that he needs to teach her a lesson with regards to her almost affair with Simon, and what he and Gib do to Simon, is also rather cruel. Sure, it is played for laughs, and this was 1994 and a lot has changed since then. That being said, True Lies contains one of Jamie Lee Curtis’ best performances, blossoming from meekness to sexy action star. Tom Arnold, whom I found to be annoying in his roles prior and even after, is another piece of good casting, and one must wonder just how close to the mark Gib is to Tom Arnold. The action set pieces directed by Cameron are what really drive the film, as cartoonish as they often are, and really help take your mind off of the film’s flaws.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

True Lies was photographed on 35mm film in the Super 35 process and completed on 35mm film (as was common at that time). A new 4K digital intermediate has been created for this release by scanning the original camera negative in 4K and then cleaned up and processed using artificial intelligence algorithms at Park Road Post in New Zealand. It was then graded using Dolby Vision and HDR10 high dynamic range. Disney released True Lies to PVOD platforms on December 12, 2023 based on this new remaster.

Much has already been said on Home Theater Forum threads and various social media platforms of the “new look” Cameron has applied to this film. Yes, it does have a bit of a digitally processed look to it, but it is also a vast improvement over the very old non-anamorphic DVD most fans have had to live with for decades, anxiously waiting for the film to be released on Blu-ray. It is also important to note that this transfer was meticulously supervised by James Cameron, and this is how he wants the film to look going forward. There is a very fine layer of film grain still visible, and there is a high level of fine detail visible including fabric textures. Colors are vivid and never appear over-saturated. I must admit, though, it is flesh tones where this transfer, regardless of platform, looks odd, almost artificial. It does take some getting used to, and it is not in every shot.

I sampled the film on three PVOD providers – Apple TV, Movies Anywhere and Vudu. At the time of this writing, Prime Video only offered the film in an older HD transfer. Apple TV (especially on an Apple TV 4K device) appears to have the best encode in Dolby Vision, with deeper colors and brighter highlights. Movies Anywhere’s encode was nearly identical to Apple TV. Vudu’s encode has slightly more subdued colors and I also noticed some minor but occasional banding issues during the opening prologue.
Vudu is also missing all translated subtitles.

Audio: 4.5/5

The new Dolby Atmos mix (in lossy Dolby Digital+) is immersive and a lot of fun, especially during the many action sequences.  Surrounds are very active when needed, heights are used for flyover and atmospheric sounds, and LFE adds some nice low-end boost for explosions, crashes and gunfire. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout.

 

New 4K will be out this spring, for now, the original DVD is available here:

Special Features: 4/5

Apple TV appears to have the motherlode of extras compared to Movies Anywhere and Vudu, provided you have an Apple TV 4K device. Otherwise, the Apple TV version is movie-only on non-Apple TV devices such as Roku.

Apple TV
Fear is Not an Option: A Look Back at “True Lies” (1080p; 43:28): Director James Cameron, actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis and Bill Paxton, and Production Executive Jon Landau (in both new and archival interviews) discuss various aspects of the film.

Theatrical Trailer (SD; 2:17)

Original Script: A slideshow gallery of pages from the screenplay.

Storyboards: A slideshow gallery of storyboards.

Blueprints: Slideshow galleries of blueprints for various sets including Tasker House, Omega Sector, Mall Bathroom, Trailer Park, and Bridge.

Unit Photography: A slideshow gallery of production stills.

Location Photography: A slideshow of location photos.

Poster Gallery

Movies Anywhere & Vudu
Fear is Not an Option: A Look Back at “True Lies” (1080p; 43:28): Director James Cameron, actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis and Bill Paxton, and Production Executive Jon Landau (in both new and archival interviews) discuss various aspects of the film.

Theatrical Trailer (SD; 2:17)

Overall: 4/5

For those who cannot wait until March 2024 for True Lies to arrive on physical media, the 4K digital is a nice early option.

The Abyss, Aliens and True Lies will be available in 4K Ultra UHD for the first time ever on December 12 at digital retailers and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc March 12, 2024. Avatar and Avatar: The Way of Water Collector’s Editions will also be available at digital retailers December 12 and on Blu-ray December 19.

Todd Erwin has been a reviewer at Home Theater Forum since 2008. His love of movies began as a young child, first showing Super 8 movies in his backyard during the summer to friends and neighbors at age 10. He also received his first movie camera that year, a hand-crank Wollensak 8mm with three fixed lenses. In 1980, he graduated to "talkies" with his award-winning short The Ape-Man, followed by the cult favorite The Adventures of Terrific Man two years later. Other films include Myth or Fact: The Talbert Terror and Warren's Revenge (which is currently being restored). In addition to movie reviews, Todd has written many articles for Home Theater Forum centering mostly on streaming as well as an occasional hardware review, is the host of his own video podcast Streaming News & Views on YouTube and is a frequent guest on the Home Theater United podcast.

Post Disclaimer

Some of our content may contain marketing links, which means we will receive a commission for purchases made via those links. In our editorial content, these affiliate links appear automatically, and our editorial teams are not influenced by our affiliate partnerships. We work with several providers (currently Skimlinks and Amazon) to manage our affiliate relationships. You can find out more about their services by visiting their sites.

Share this post:

View thread (16 replies)

Citizen87645

Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
May 9, 2002
Messages
12,934
Real Name
Cameron Yee
I think the last time I may have seen this movie was in the theater, as I never owned the DVD for various reasons. It was interesting revisiting the film with all that has transpired politically and socially over the last 30 years.

I did find the stunt doubling of Arnold rather obvious, but I'm not sure why it seems more so with this film than others. It almost seemed like they didn't try very hard to obscure the fact.

As far as the video quality, there were definitely moments / shots where they looked not especially natural / heavily processed. I'm curious what was specifically problematic with those shots that required what seems like pretty aggressive (A.I.?) measures.
 

cineMANIAC

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2008
Messages
2,823
Location
New York City
Real Name
Luis
Was hoping for a more detailed review.

I must admit all the bickering and bellyaching about "the new look" of these Cameron films has kind of soured me on them somewhat but I'm still very much looking forward to the upcoming physical media releases. I was one of those highly frustrated with the lack of upgraded discs and was ecstatic beyond belief when they were finally announced. Haven't purchased the digital versions of TL or Aliens but I did buy The Abyss on Prime and thought it looked fantastic overall.

Is Aliens available to stream digitally anywhere?
 

dpippel

Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems
Supporter
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2000
Messages
12,432
Location
Sonora Norte
Real Name
Doug
Did they include both the theatrical and special edition? Both in HDR?
The Abyss on Prime is only available for purchase at this time for $9.99, and it's the theatrical cut only. It's not available to rent. It's the same on all streaming platforms. Amazon shows it as HD on Movies Anywhere, but if you look at Prime Video on amazon.com it's listed as UHD.

1703870789306.png
 

cineMANIAC

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2008
Messages
2,823
Location
New York City
Real Name
Luis
The Abyss on Prime is only available for purchase at this time for $9.99, and it's the theatrical cut only. It's not available to rent. It's the same on all streaming platforms. Amazon shows it as HD on Movies Anywhere, but if you look at Prime Video on amazon.com it's listed as UHD.

View attachment 207947

I paid $19.99 for the Prime purchase. Not sure if it was HDR for the poster who asked but it was indeed the Special Edition.
 

dpippel

Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems
Supporter
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2000
Messages
12,432
Location
Sonora Norte
Real Name
Doug
I paid $19.99 for the Prime purchase. Not sure if it was HDR for the poster who asked but it was indeed the Special Edition.
Amazon currently has the Theatrical and the Special Edition for sale separately at $9.99 each.
 

cineMANIAC

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2008
Messages
2,823
Location
New York City
Real Name
Luis
Amazon currently has the Theatrical and the Special Edition for sale separately at $9.99 each.

Maybe that option wasn't available when I bought it initially. Or maybe I just missed that there were indeed two separate versions being sold. All I know is there was no way I would've paid the twenty bucks for just the theatrical cut. I'm never going back to that cut.
 

Todd Erwin

Reviewer
HW Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2008
Messages
10,626
Location
Hawthorne, NV
Real Name
Todd Erwin
Here is the latest report card for True Lies (I have omitted YouTube/Google TV since they have made it nearly impossible to locate items in your library):

Movies Anywhere: 4K Dolby Vision/HDR10, Dolby Atmos

Vudu: 4K Dolby Vision/HDR10, Dolby Atmos (missing translated subtitles)

Apple TV (on Apple TV device): 4K Dolby Vision/HDR10, Dolby Atmos

Apple TV app (on non-Apple TV device): 4K Dolby Vision/HDR10, Dolby Atmos; Movie only

Prime Video: HD and Dolby Digital+ 5.1. Not available in 4K
 

Nathan_H

Second Unit
Joined
Feb 26, 2001
Messages
318
Here is the latest report card for True Lies (I have omitted YouTube/Google TV since they have made it nearly impossible to locate items in your library):

Movies Anywhere: 4K Dolby Vision/HDR10, Dolby Atmos

Vudu: 4K Dolby Vision/HDR10, Dolby Atmos (missing translated subtitles)

Apple TV (on Apple TV device): 4K Dolby Vision/HDR10, Dolby Atmos

Apple TV app (on non-Apple TV device): 4K Dolby Vision/HDR10, Dolby Atmos; Movie only

Prime Video: HD and Dolby Digital+ 5.1. Not available in 4K
When you say Dolby Vision\HDR10 is that is differentiate from the Dolby Vision without the HDR10 base layer (the base layer HDR10 being required on disk but not on streaming)?
 

Todd Erwin

Reviewer
HW Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2008
Messages
10,626
Location
Hawthorne, NV
Real Name
Todd Erwin
When you say Dolby Vision\HDR10 is that is differentiate from the Dolby Vision without the HDR10 base layer (the base layer HDR10 being required on disk but not on streaming)?
If your device and/or display does not support Dolby Vision, then it defaults to HDR10. Most PVOD providers now default down to HDR10 if DV is not supported in the customer's chain on newer content. Some providers, like Vudu, have not gone back to all older titles in their library to add HDR10.
 
Last edited:
Most Popular
Available for Amazon Prime