True Lies UHD Review

4 Stars Slight improvement over digital
True Lies 4K Review SCreenshot

After years of waiting, James Cameron’s True Lies finally arrives in a satisfactory but not stellar new transfer on 4K UHD Blu-ray.

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, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: R
Run Time: 2 Hr. 21 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: 2-disc UHD keepcase with slipcover
Disc Type: UHD
Region: A
Release Date: 03/12/2024
MSRP: $39.99

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: 4.5/5

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.

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.

Disney’s 2160p HEVC encode includes both Dolby Vision and HDR10 high dynamic range. The physical media release is slightly better than the previous digital 4K release from last December. Detail is a bit sharper and more refined, colors are a bit more solid and vivid, and contrast is more dialed-in. Film grain is also a bit more visible on disc.

Audio: 5/5

The new Dolby Atmos mix (in lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1) 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. This disc release has a wider dynamic range and higher fidelity than the 4K digital Atmos mix. A DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track is provided as an additional English option. The included Blu-ray swaps the Dolby Atmos track with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix for the 4K’s DTS-HD MA 2.0 (the latter may be to provide a bit more breathing room for the feature and bonus material).

Special Features: 4/5

Unlike the disc releases of Aliens and The Abyss which had separate Blu-ray discs dedicated to Special Features, the special features for True Lies are included on the Blu-ray movie disc.

Fear is Not an Option: A Look Back at “True Lies” (1080p; 43:27): 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.

Archives: Script, Artwork, Marketing: Under this heading, you can find the following special features.

Theatrical Trailer
 (upscaled 1080i; 2:22): Presented in 4:3.

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

Digital Copy: A Movies Anywhere code is included to redeem a digital copy of the film in 4K.

Overall: 4/5

It’s been a long time coming, but True Lies is finally available on physical media in both Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray, although a separate Blu-ray release has not yet been announced.

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.

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JohnRice

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Nice, honest review Todd. Yeah, I hesitated to order this one, but finally did last week. No telling how long I'll have to wait as a result. I might change my mind before then. It's an amusing yarn, but definitely not on par with Aliens. I'm also troubled by some behind-the-scenes ugliness that went on with the production.
 

Jeff Whitford

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Watched it last night and It looked wonderful. Audio wise it was really good but palled in fullness compared to the old laserdisc. As a most titles do. I.E. Twister
 

Vegas 1

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Finally received my copy from Amazon today, still waiting for The Abyss and Aliens. Looking forward to watching True Lies this week.
 
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