This Means War
Directed by McG
Screenplay by Timothy Dowling, Simon Kinberg, Marcus Gautesen
Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Chelsea Handler, Til Schweiger
How long is This Means War? 98 minutes.
What is This Means War rated? R for some sexual content.
Rarely can a movie this stupid be so much fun.
McG has not had the most illustrious career as a director. After the abysmal Charlie’s Angels adaptation and its even worse sequel in 2003, McG tried to get more serious with We Are Marshall, though the movie, while a genuine attempt at real filmmaking, was an intentionally depressing tearjerker with little substance. Then came Terminator Salvation, an action blockbuster that actually functioned as a real film, thanks to a decent script and strong performances by Christian Bale and Sam Worthington. After the success of that film, McG has taken two steps backward with This Means War.
Two CIA agents, FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy), who are both dashingly handsome and deadly in a fight, are best friends and partners who would never ever let anything come between them. Then something comes between them: a woman, of course. Tuck meets Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) through an online dating site after discovering his ex-wife has begun dating. Tuck and Lauren hit it off immediately; she’s captivated by his British accent and trapeze skills, he’s smitten by her looks and sense of humor.
Lauren also runs into FDR by chance and while he is initially rebuffed, due to his being a cocky womanizer, his relentless pursuit eventually pays off. Lauren begins to see a different side of FDR through the close relationship with his family, especially his Nana Foster (Rosemary Harris). Soon, though, FDR and Tuck discover they are both dating, and developing feelings for, the same woman. What ensues is a series of full-blown attacks on one another using all of the CIA’s resources in an effort to sabotage the other man’s chances with Lauren. With the aid of wire-tapping, surveillance and electronic manipulation, FDR and Tuck behave like two boys wrestling over their favorite Hot Wheels car.
Though the movie is light on intelligence and has the special effects budget of The Room, it isn’t a complete disaster. This can be attributed to McG creating a movie which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Neither FDR nor Tuck is James Bond and this isn’t Casino Royale. McG instead combines the perfect amount of romantic comedy with action set pieces which will appeal to both men and women. Hollywood’s dream has finally come true!
The movie is rather entertaining due, in large part, to the strong performances by Hardy, Pine and Witherspoon. Watching Hardy play a sensitive romantic whose feelings are easily hurt is absolutely hilarious. Hardy, one of the most versatile actors working today, has mainly worked with very serious material and his roles have been very physical (e.g. Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises). In This Means War, we get our first look at Hardy the comic and it is quite impressive. It’s refreshing to see a strong actor who is comfortable in essentially any genre of film.
Pine’s performance is much more subtle than one would expect for this kind of film. Yes, FDR is a braggart and blowhard so the majority of his performance is simply him playing the arrogant macho guy. However, it’s Pine’s reactions to other characters and the moments without dialogue that are the most fun to watch. Like Hardy, Pine is mainly known for his serious work like Star Trek and Unstoppable, but his comedic work here is quite impressive, proving he has much more to offer than one might have originally thought.
Finally, there is Witherspoon who reminds us once again why, for a time, she seemed to be cast in every movie. Witherspoon is just so adorable and has such natural comedic instincts. On the page, the character of Lauren is not well-drawn, instead serving as simply the woman caught between two men without much authenticity of her own. In Witherspoon’s hands, though, Lauren is a neurotic, insecure, apprehensive goofball who is close to reaching the level of desperation when it comes to finding a boyfriend. A great counterbalance to Witherspoon is comedian Chelsea Handler who plays Lauren’s married best friend Trish whose advice is rarely more than whatever will get Lauren laid the quickest. Together, Witherspoon and Handler make the movie much more entertaining than it would have been with any other two actresses.
Written by Timothy Dowling, Simon Kinberg and Marcus Gautesen, This Means War has a very tenuous plot at best. The film’s bad guy is an international terrorist named Heinrich played by Til Schweiger (Inglourious Basterds). Of course, the film has to have stakes higher than which guy will end up with the girl, but the entire subplot of an evil guy like Heinrich coming all the way from Europe just to get revenge on FDR and Tuck is more than a little ridiculous. Schweiger is of course fun to watch, but his entire storyline is unbelievable at best.
Overall, though, This Means War is an entertaining piece of escapist fun. It will successfully appeal to both men and women alike (by the standards of Hollywood) and has some genuinely hilarious moments due to its talented cast. Though it’s not necessarily one you should rush out to see in the theater, you probably won’t ask for your money back if you do.
Matthew Newlin lives in St. Louis, Missouri and has been a film critic for over six years. He has written for numerous online media outlets, including “Playback:STL” and “The Weissman Report.” He holds a Master’s of Education in Higher Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is an Assistant Director of Financial Aid. A lifelong student of cinema, his passion for film was inherited from his father who never said “No, you can’t watch that.”