James Cameron turns in his only comedy to a problem that stirs in all his action movies: Marriage. How to mate man & woman, more specifically. His comedy is not leisurely. Men cannot afford the luxury of impossible conceits. Comic accidents would tend to make men seem ridiculous. How are active men to achieve a happy marriage? Ultimately, a man has to learn that saving his marriage means saving his country. It’s patriotic.
His Terminator put Arnold Schwarzenegger, an impressive man, on display. This humiliated a Hollywood full of unmanly actors & taught it what a real moviemaker can do, because his he-man could barely talk, nor act much better. In his comedy, he turns around & has the he-man listen & watch; for once, we see the he-man do the tango.
This is the story of a government spy who has a secret life as a suburban middle-class executive. Home means going to see his wife, who is bored to death with his job, & his girl, who ignores him, but not his wallet. He never spends enough time with them. A friend warns him that this younger generation is educated by Madonna & Axl Rose, not mom & pop. A father’s worst nightmare.
This man has to learn why his wife is bored with him & what he can do to bring her back to life, so to speak. He starts spying on her, therefore, on his friend’s suggestion, because this is not the sort of thing you can just ask. For once, the government is doing something for the citizens’ happiness.
The political part of the comedy shows that love & spying both confront lawlessness. Intelligence about love may be the most important thing to learn, in any country. True lies is a term of art in espionage. It is also the way in which all movies work. The poet alone really knows that the truth must always be surrounded by a guard of lies.
Let us turn from the plot to the comic image of the poet. He first appears as friend & servant to the hero. He gives advice, but cannot act himself. He knows the hero is no great lover, though women adore him. He tries to console the hero’s humiliated love. Then the poet appears as a lover himself, seducing women by pretending to be a hero. Danger & manliness arouse women to love, apparently, not merely because they showcase manly virtue, but because they allow a man to need a woman. Presumably, the lawlessness of war helps. The comic image of sentimental education comically suggests the hero is an image of the poet.
James Cameron‘s only comedy. Full of romance, explosions, & national security.