If you’ve seen the trailers for This Means War, there’s really not much need to see the movie. You probably won’t get a whole lot more enjoyment out of it than what the trailer had to offer. Yes, it’s enjoyable enough to sustain your attention for just under two hours, but whatever pleasure you might feel will be fleeting and should completely disappear immediately upon leaving the theater.
The idea behind the movie sounds fun, but when actually drawn out to fill a feature-length run time, it grows tiresome. If it weren’t for the presence of its charming leads, much of the potential for fun would be diminished. Best friends Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) are two CIA operatives who fall for the same woman, Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), boss at a consumer products testing company (now there’s a job you don’t see depicted on-screen every day). Instead of one of the two friends bowing out gracefully, they decide to both continue to date her and ultimately let her choose. Of course, they can’t make it easy on each other, so each agent assembles a team in order to spy on one another through gross misappropriation of high-level government security. When one of his team members questions the legality of the operation, FDR brushes it off by simply responding, “Patriot Act.”
Yes, it’s that kind of humor: simple, predictable, sitcom-like. Given the premise, this should come as no surprise. It is indeed a drawn-out situation comedy with some action and a touch of romance thrown in to the mix. And I do mean a touch. None of it is all too romantic. Director McG is so wrapped up in the spy versus spy one-upmanship between Hardy and Pine that the romance falls by the wayside… along with any semblance of a cohesive story.
Often, the movie feels as if it was just tossed together haphazardly. This is especially apparent in the handling of the feature’s outside antagonist, an evil German terrorist named Heinrich (Til Schweiger, so memorable as Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz in Inglourious Basterds), who isn’t given enough screen time to prove any sort of threat and whose entire presence in the story comes across as more of an afterthought.
Despite these obvious and (concerning McG’s track record as a motion picture director) wholly expected shortcomings, as I mentioned before, the movie is enjoyable, if only on a superficial level. Again, much of the fun to be had results from the lead performances. All three are entertaining to watch together, even if the chemistry doesn’t always come across as electric. After already proving to be one of the best actors working today, Tom Hardy is especially impressive as Tuck, doing the best job out of the three leads to sculpt a believable character from the shapeless slab of clay that serves as the script. Hardy makes Tuck complex, achieving a believable balance of outer strength and inner weakness that transcends the film’s frivolity. He is also pretty darn funny.
If your plan is to go see This Means War because it looks fun and it will give you the chance to watch the exploits of three pretty people for two hours, you probably won’t be disappointed… in the moment at least. Just be forewarned: You might leave the theater wondering what else you could have spent your hard-earned money on.