(Published in Issue 8 of my publication In Retrospect)
Directed by McG, This Means War is a romantic comedy action film that centers on two CIA agents, best friends FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy), who find themselves part of a love triangle when they end up dating the same woman. When neither is willing to back down, the quest for true loves turns into a spy vs. spy operation as the two battle to see who has the best tricks in the book, as they become willing to do anything to come out on top, literally. Meanwhile, Lauren Scott (Reese Witherspoon) must make a decision for herself, as she is forced to choose between the womanising playboy that is FDR, and the sensitive and easier option that is being offered by Tuck. So who, if anyone at all, will she choose?
From the director of Charlie’s Angels, This Means War isn’t a typical romantic comedy. Whilst the film is undeniably one for the girls (because let’s face it, it’s pretty impossible not to melt when Tom Hardy opens his mouth), the film manages to stir away from being a generic American rom-com by adding a splice of action, as well as being led by a brilliant cast that is the bromance of Pine and Hardy. I’ll say this now that this is no masterpiece, but what happened to enjoying a film for doing nothing more than making you laugh? Being a mix of genres is, ultimately, the reason why the film both exceeds and fails, giving something for all of the audience to enjoy, but whilst at the same time not living up to either of these genres particularly well.
With the sub-plot of a group of Russian gangsters who are attempting to…well, that part doesn’t even matter…the focus of this rom-com is occasionally taken away by heading back to the CIA headquarters to get down to work. Kind of. Not technically including any scenes of real action, at least not in the sense that is to be expected from McG, the setting of this spy agency is enough to mean that if you have been dragged along to see this by your girlfriend then you may just find yourself enjoying it too. It’s a romantic comedy that tries to appeal to both halves of the couple, and whilst many have argued that the film doesn’t do this well, I would argue otherwise.
It’s a widely held view that the action in the film isn’t amazing, so what about the romantic and comedic genres that it still has to fill? For me, it was the comedy that made This Means War bearable to sit through. The best part of the film, I felt, was that the script has some genuinely really funny lines. This ‘banter’ between Pine and Hardy was constant throughout and, even though you can see much of it from the trailer, it was the conversations alongside the pranks that they were pulling that were the entertaining parts. As for the romance, well the film doesn’t really succeed at that either, as its misogynistic nature doesn’t really allow any feelings of love to break through once the ‘games’ have begun. I would, however, say that it is quite sexy in places.
Unfortunately, the film does end on a bit of cliché, one that I hoped it would avoid. It was, however, dealt with it in a more adult fashion, so it didn’t ruin the film in any way, and whilst there was a lack of real action, there was a lot of emotion to be taken from these final few scenes. Obviously, the chemistry was in the wrong place, though, as I was rooting for the wrong team throughout. Nevertheless, it did end well and I’m glad that it went a bit further with the underlying, more sophisticated, storyline of Hardy’s family finding a resolution.
Despite how much I enjoyed the film it is very much a low point in all of these actors careers, especially for Hardy. Pine and Hardy may not make very convincing spies, but they are a comedic duo who have a lot of fun working together, and that is expressed really well on-screen. Neither excel in this film as they have done in the roles that we remember them for (for example Pine in Star Trek and Hardy in Warrior), but in relation to what is being asked of them from this film, they both play their roles brilliantly and it was a nice turn to see them both in something more light-hearted. For Witherspoon, however, it is a little different as it’s this type of film that we are used to seeing her in. For this reason, whilst her role is a lot more serious from her Elle Woods days, there can be no faults found.
At the end of the day, if you are planning to watch a rom-com then you know what you’re in for. Whilst This Means War doesn’t excel in any of its genres, it’s a decent film that keeps you enticed, and is one that will certainly make you laugh every now and then. It’s light, it’s fun, and if you’re not looking for anything serious then you can’t go wrong, even if it’s just for the bromance.