This Means War is a rare example of a movie being overtly silly and non-sensical, but yet – on the most simplistic cinematic level – wholly enjoyable. Why you may ask? Director McG struck gold when casting his three completely charismatic and exhilarating stars: Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde), Tom Hardy (Bronson), and Chris Pine (Unstoppable).
The plot is nothing out of the ordinary. Think James Bond meets Keeping the Faith – and every other film where two best friends run into a romantic conflict that is destined to momentarily split them apart. In This Means War, two prime CIA operatives (Pine’s FDR and Hardy’s Tuck) are put on desk duty after a covert mission to kill a vicious foreign mobster (Til Schweiger’s Heinrich) goes awry.
With plenty of free time on their hands, Tuck signs up for an online dating website to meet new women — as if Tom Hardy couldn’t have any girl he desires. Fortunately he quickly connects with another equally willing, intelligent, but busy women named Lauren (Witherspoon).
The two head out on a date: all goes well, chemistry is aplenty, and the relationship seems to start off on the right foot. But just like the botched mission a few weeks prior, things are about to go haywire. Lauren – while on her walk home from the date – bumps into FDR. While there is some initial hostility (Pine’s character is sly, but arrogant) the two also decide to embark on a relationship.
A love triangle is formed, but she’s the odd girl out. Tuck and FDR coincidentally figure out that they’re lusting after the same beautiful woman. With neither agent bowing out of the ring, romantic warfare ensues. Naturally, being CIA operatives has its perks: high-tech spying and invasion of privacy hijinks consume the narrative, most of which I found to be downright hilarious.
While credit is certainly due to screenwriters Timothy Dowling (Role Models) and Simon Kinberg (Sherlock Holmes), it’s the film’s three stars that make This Means War uproariously funny and infectiously charming. Pine, Hardy, and Witherspoon have such a great and natural rapport with each other, that the dialogue – even in some of the more intimate moments – feel believable.
Disregard the subplot of that ludicrous European gangster who seeks revenge on Tuck and FDR sporadically throughout the film. Dividends aren’t paid till the end and by that time it’s completely inconsequential. The core of This Means War lies in its protagonists and their equally hyperbolic desires for love. While most of what takes place in the film is lacking in logic, it’s light, witty, and perpetually entertaining.
Which – in light of recent tame and disengaging endeavors – is refreshing.
3 stars out 4
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