True Lies (Cameron, 1994)

In True Lies (1994), James Cameron uses the unrestrained medium of film to create hyper-realistic action sequences – the effect of which is entertainment, a sense of fantasy, and a feeling of glory for the viewers. Since the film clearly distinguishes the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’, and follows the actions of the character who is considerably the ‘most good’, Harry Tasker (Schwarzenegger), the viewer is inclined to ‘root’ for him and his associates. For this reason, the viewers feel like they are a part of his team; so, whenever Harry et al succeed, the viewers receive a corresponding feeling of glory. Furthermore, the more successful they are, the more brilliant the feeling of glory.

To take advantage of this phenomenon, James Cameron creates hyper-realistic action sequences in which Harry and the other ‘good guys’ not only succeed, but succeed under seemingly disquieting and improbable circumstances. In this way, by the end of True Lies, the viewer can’t help but feel like cheering victoriously and fantasizing about how great it would be to be as amazing and awesome as Harry Tasker. I imagine this phenomenon is more effective in children, nevertheless, I suppose a mind of any age could be influenced by it.

There are several examples of the kind of hyper-realistic action sequences I refer to. First of all, the ‘good guys’ are always outnumbered; Harry is essentially a one-man-team facing dozens of evil-doers. Furthermore, apparently none of the bad guys can shoot, as there are likely over a hundred bullets fired at Harry, not one of which hit him. Contrastingly, nearly every one of Harry’s shots meet its target; in the introductory scene, Harry shoots and kills at least a dozen of his adversaries with a simple hand gun, while a multitude of bullets fired by enemy held machine-guns whiz past him. Moreover, in a later scene, Gib (Arnold) stands behind a thin pole and miraculously avoids several seconds of machine-gun firing. What’s more, the most hyper-realistic piece of action in the film occurs in the 105th minute: Helen drops a machine gun which bounces down stairs and, in slow-motion, proceeds to kill 9 bad guys! Finally, when Harry releases the torpedo with Aziz, it incredibly soars through a previously created gap in a building and strikes an enemy helicopter containing all the remaining bad guys – effectively killing ‘two birds with one stone’, and ending the combat in astounding glory. These examples are a mere few of many hyper-realistic action sequences utilized by James Cameron.


About Kamran Ahmed

I have a Masters in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto. I work as a freelance writer and film critic in Vancouver. My writing is primarily distributed through Next Projection, an online film journal based in Toronto.
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