True Lies: Ultimate Collector’s Edition (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Mar 10, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
  • Bookmark and Share
True Lies: Ultimate Collector’s Edition (4K UHD Review)


James Cameron

Release Date(s)

1994 (March 12, 2024)


Lightstorm/20th Century Fox (Studios) (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: C+
  • Audio Grade: A-
  • Extras Grade: C+

True Lies (4K Ultra HD)




[Editor’s Note: This review is adapted from my look at the 4K Digital release from December of last year. New A/V comments pertaining to the disc quality are in bold italic text. Per labeling on the discs, each disc in this set is All Region.]

The Highlights:

  • Trues Lies in physical 4K improves upon the 4K Digital presentation in the ways you’d expect, but it’s been given a much too aggressive and modern remastering that belies the look of film and is extremely uneven.
  • The new Atmos and 5.1 DTS-HD MA mixes (on 4K UHD and Blu-ray, respectively) are excellent.
  • Both discs in this package are all region.
  • Extras include the film’s trailer, a LaserDisc-like archive of still images (including the script, photography, and more) and a new retrospective documentary.


Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a mild-mannered computer salesman... or so his family thinks. Harry is actually a secret agent working for the US Government, going undercover around the world in some of the most deadly and violent situations imaginable. He’s been doing this for years, but somehow, he’s managed to keep that fact secret from his wife Helen (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) and his daughter Dana (Eliza Dushku). Unfortunately, Harry’s so busy with his work, that he’s neglected to give Helen the attention she deserves. So when a scheming used car salesmen (Bill Paxton) flirts with her, hoping to get her in the sack, Harry catches on and decides to teach them both a lesson. But in the process, his work catches up with him again… and Harry just can’t leave his work at the office. It isn’t long before the Taskers are both taken prisoner by a group of Middle-Eastern terrorists, who plan to teach the world a twenty-megaton lesson of their own, and it’s up to Harry and his team to save the day.

James Cameron certainly knows how to spin an action yarn, but True Lies is far from a straightforward action film. The thrills here are appropriately intense and cleverly staged, but the story is funny too. The plot builds to a satisfyingly dramatic climax, yet just when you manage to catch your breath, the action picks up again, and doesn’t let go until the bad guys get what’s coming to them—a classic Cameron double-conclusion. Next to the Terminator, Harry Tasker is one Schwarzenegger’s best roles. The character can do no wrong in a tight spot, but he’s comically out of his element with his own family. Curtis is terrific as Harry’s bookworm-ish wife. Okay, she only appears that way for a while—Jamie definitely did some reps on the Ab Roller for this part. She’s also charming and funny to boot. Add to this comic turns by Tom Arnold (as Harry’s spy sidekick) and Paxton, as well as a quick cameo by Charlton Heston, and you’ve got a pretty solid crowd pleaser. To be fair, True Lies isn’t likely to win any awards from feminist groups or the Muslim community (and not without reason). But if you can forgive that, there are plenty of nifty (and remarkably practical and daring) set pieces as well as good laughs to enjoy.

When I reviewed Fox’s 4K Digital release of this film back in December, here’s what I had to say about the video quality (after much revising, re-revising, and re-re-revising through multiple viewings)…

True Lies was shot by cinematographer Russell Carpenter (Titanic, Avatar: The Way of Water) on 35 mm photochemical film (in Super-35 “common top” format, with Eastman EXR 50D 5245, EXR 200T 5293, EXR 500T 5296 stocks) using Arriflex 35 BL4, 35 IIC, and 35-III as well as Moviecam Compact cameras, along with Zeiss Standard Speed, Super Speed, and Cooke Varotal lenses. Visual effects were also filmed in VistaVision format. The film was then finished photochemically in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio for theaters (which included 35 mm anamorphic blow-up release prints, as well as 70 mm blow-ups). For its release on Ultra HD, Lightstorm, working with Park Road Post, has built a new 4K Digital Intermediate using recent 4K scans of the original camera negative (confirmed per Lightstorm). This footage has then been “optimized” by Park Road’s proprietary deep-learning algorithms. Photochemical grain has been greatly reduced, though not eliminated entirely, while fine detail has been enhanced algorithmically. The image has also been graded for high dynamic range, with both Dolby Vision and HDR10 available.

[Editor’s Note: This is definitely not old-school “DNR” here, a term that far too many A/V enthusiasts are overusing today. Remastering tools have evolved a great deal since the dreaded Digital Noise Reduction days of the aughts—home video’s version (along with edge enhancement) of music’s “loudness” problem of the 1990s. This Park Road process is something entirely new.]

The result is a 4K presentation of frequently striking clarity and impressive detail, but that also occasionally looks unnaturally soft or “clean” as well. Given that True Lies has never appeared on US Blu-ray—aside from an Italian import release and cable/streaming HD presentations—it would be difficult to argue that this isn’t a major improvement over past DVD and LaserDisc editions. But the film does look processed, and certainly more modern than mid-90s vintage. There’s often still light photochemical grain and plenty of fine image detail visible, but not always (it seems to vary from shot to shot, scene to scene, and even within the same frame). The overall palette is somewhat subdued, as it’s always been, yet the colors are well-saturated and accurate—and they’re downright bold during Helen’s attempted strip-tease seduction scene in the hotel, with golden firelight flickering in the background. Shadows are very good, with strongly-bright highlights. It’s just odd—sometimes this image looks fantastic and other times it looks completely unnatural. It’s as though the Park Road team—no doubt at Cameron’s direction—walked right up to the line of what would most would consider heavy-handed remastering… and then pushed it a little further. True Lies has clearly been “optimized” more than one would think necessary for an image sourced from 4K scans of original camera negative. Still, when you watch the image in motion on a properly-calibrated display (rather than simply freeze-framing cherry-picked examples of its worst moments), this is nowhere near as bad looking as... say... StudioCanal’s abysmal Terminator 2 4K release. The end result is a UHD image that I suspect casual fans of the film will still appreciate, even as others (and not unreasonably) take issue with the extent of the remastering.

All of the above still applies to Fox’s new physical 4K Ultra HD release, which is encoded on a triple-layered UHD-100 disc. (The included Blu-ray is a BD-50.) The only difference here is that the video data rates are significantly higher that the Digital stream—on the order of 65-70 Mbps on average. What that means, is that the color is a bit more vibrant, the overall contrast is a little more expansive, and the whole image looks more dimensional. Everything that was good about the 4K Digital image is still good here, only better. Unfortunately, the heavily-processed appearance remains as well, and each of you will have to decide how you feel about that.

My guess is that True Lies was the first of these new 4K remasters to be completed using Park Road's process, followed by Aliens, then The Abyss, and Titanic. At each step, they got better at it. But with Cameron having approved all the work, it became difficult to justify revisiting this one afterwards. In any case, there is still no doubt that the film looks better than it ever has before on disc, and that—for better or worse—it looks exactly as Cameron wants it to.

As for the audio side of this experience, here’s what I had to say about the 4K Digital audio…

The film’s English soundtrack is included in a new Dolby Atmos mix that features a bigger and more immersive soundstage than ever before. For most of the film, its atmospherics tend to be subtle, but once the action kicks in things start to get much more robust and dynamic. The height channels are used largely for overhead completion, but during the bridge chase and Harrier attack they add some discrete lift and directionality. Movement is smooth and natural, with firm LFE as the explosions erupt, and gunfire pings and whistles around the soundstage. Harry’s Harrier rescue of his daughter (say that three times fast) also benefits from the Atmos mix’s more liquid panning, though the sound of its Rolls-Royce Pegasus engines doesn’t have quite the bluster or bite you might be expecting. Dialogue remains clean and clear at all times, while full-sounding mids lend pleasing fidelity to the score by composer Brad Fiedel (Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day). All in all, this is a strong sonic upgrade.

Fox’s new 4K UHD disc includes audio in English Dolby Atmos, English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 DTS-HD High Resolution, and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. (Note that the Blu-ray swaps the Dolby Atmos mix for English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and the English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio for English 2.0 Dolby Digital.) All of my audio quality comments on the 4K Digital Atmos apply here as well. Note that optional subtitles on both discs are available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish.

Fox’s Ultra HD release is a 2-disc set that includes 4K and Blu-ray movie discs. There are no extras on the 4K disc, but the Blu-ray includes the following:

  • Fear is Not an Option: A Look Back at True Lies (HD – 43:27)
  • Archives: Script, Artwork, Marketing
    • Theatrical Trailer (SD – 2:22)
    • Original Script
    • Storyboards
    • Blueprints
    • Unit Photography
    • Location Photography
    • Poster Gallery

The original DVD release (which I reviewed here back in 1999), contained only the film’s theatrical trailer. Likewise, the 1998 LaserDisc had just the teaser and theatrical trailer. And there was nothing whatsoever on the 2003 D-VHS D-Theater release. So the content above, while missing the teaser, is already the most comprehensive extras package this film has ever received. In addition to an archive of still image galleries (featuring the script, storyboards, photography, and posters), you do get a solid new retrospective documentary, Fear Is Not an Option: A Look Back at True Lies, which runs three-quarters of an hour and includes both new material as well as interview footage shot in 2012 (for the Blu-ray release that never happened at the time). There’s also good behind-the-scenes footage of the Harrier jet stunts that’s well worth a look.

The only other thing that could have been included here (but wasn’t) is The Making of True Lies (SD – 22:39), a 1994 promotional TV special that’s only been included on disc on the 2005 French Special Edition DVD release. While the new special covers much of the same ground and more, you may still wish to keep that original disc if you have it. (It’s also available on YouTube.)

Of course, the package also contains a Movies Anywhere Digital code on a paper insert. The specific film versions and extras you gain access to via Digital will depend on the individual provider.

True Lies isn’t a great action film, but it is a pretty darned good one and it’s a fan-favorite to be sure, featuring some terrific stunts, plenty of humor, and solid performances all around. Lightstorm’s new 4K remaster definitely isn’t going to please everyone—certainly not most A/V enthusiasts—but more casual fans of the film will still find it a solid upgrade. Does True Lies in 4K look as bad as some are claiming online? No, it doesn’t. But is it still a heavy-handed remaster that should definitely look better than it does here? Absolutely. As always, your own mileage will vary.

- Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media on Twitter and Facebook)