This Means War

Chris Pine and Tom Hardy have put their all into yet another in a long line of films glamorizing the world of secret agents. But fear not, Daniel Craig is in no danger as, sadly, neither of these boys is in danger of snatching the crown of King Cool of Spy-dom. This is after all a romantic comedy and certainly not the best-executed of its kind. No one should be surprised to find that This Means War is more playground than James Bond, thrusting two best buddies, secret agent partners, into a no-holds-barred battle for the affections of a slightly desperate, slightly confused Reese Witherspoon.

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Playboy FDR (Chris Pine) fills the asshole-who-you-can’t-stand-but-eventually-develop-feelings-for-due-to-his-unexpected-vulnerabilities cliché like he was born for it while Tom Hardy’s Tuck is the slightly bashful Brit (whose incongruous nationality is never addressed) with an endearing grin and a heart of gold. The contrast between the two stock rom-com characters highlight all the flaws inherent in this genre’s clichés and, apart from being an amusing critique of the genre, serves to make both men fairly unlikable. Too little attention was paid to their relationship, apart from suggesting that they share a bond closer than that of brothers but will immediately turn on one another at the prospect of a reasonably nice girlfriend. Yet another message from Hollywood on the fickleness of men. Point taken.

Reese Witherspoon, though saved from being that dislikeable girl who has more than her fair share of heart throbs fawning over her by the inevitable creepiness of said fawning (no, planting cameras and microphones in your girlfriend’s apartment is not romantic), was not wholly convincing as the girl of every man’s dreams. Even having an improbably cool job (product testing never looked like so much fun) didn’t quite elevate her from being quite-nice-but-not-that-great. Certainly not great enough to make two allegedly lifelong best friends attempt to kill one another.

We are also given another Hollywood-sized dose of annoying best friend in the shape of Trish (Chelsea Handler). Full of terrible advice and frequent crudity, Trish is an unsuccessful portrayal of a strong independent woman, her only actual purpose seeming to be making Witherspoon look a little more normal and a little less greedy.

On the other hand, the deliciously sinister Til Schweiger received far too little screen time as the film’s generic Russian baddie. It was also entirely too hard to believe that a pair of squabbling boys would have any chance against a genuine villain, not to mention one so suave.

In order to enjoy what this film has to offer, it is important not to get caught up in the endless improbabilities that jump out at you in every scene: the extraordinary waste of federal equipment and manpower, the outrageous violations of personal privacy, and the endangerment (and likely death) of innocent bystanders. These are all concerns of reality, not of the world of secret agent love triangles and therefore have no place in the viewing of this film.

Overall, This Means War was an enjoyable watch but fell disappointingly flat at the end when it came time to tie things up. The actors clearly enjoyed themselves (one can imagine quite a bit of on-set friendly competition) and for the most part deliver about what can be expected of them: some laughs, some cringes, and an unbelievable amount of general destruction of property.

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