The UnPopular Opinion: This Means War

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!


In the six years I have been writing this column, I have tackled genres ranging from horror to comedy, drama to action, science fiction to musicals. I have even covered a television series or two. What rarely comes up on my list of films to review are romantic comedies. Sure, I lambasted SAY ANYTHING, but that is an exception. Many guys shy away from romantic comedies and for good reason as most of them suck these days. Every now and then, a studio will try to combine action and romance to middling results. Much like the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz action romance KNIGHT AND DAY, it is hard to market a movie to both guys and gals with the proper balance of gunfire and cuddling. Yet, when done well, a movie can dismiss labels and just be an appealing movie. One such film that was disregarded by audiences upon release in 2012 was McG's THIS MEANS WARS starring Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, and Tom Hardy. Audiences were divided and critics despised the film, but THIS MEANS WAR is a genuinely fun time at the movies that appeals to all demographics without having to be a franchise starter or awards contender.

Six years ago, the biggest star in the cast of THIS MEANS WAR was Reese Witherspoon. Chris Pine had made STAR TREK three years prior but was not the marquee name he is today. Tom Hardy had appeared in INCEPTION, WARRIOR, and BRONSON among many other acclaimed films, but had yet to become Bane or Mad Max and reach the top of the A-list. McG as a filmmaker was still struggling after the debacle that was TERMINATOR SALVATION and was hoping that this would be a comeback vehicle of sorts as it blended the action of CHARLIE'S ANGELS with the appeal of three very attractive actors duking it out in the name of love. Alas, the movie bombed, grossing only $156 million globally against a $65 million budget. Still, rewatching THIS MEANS WAR today shows that it still holds up well visually and showcases three very talented performers giving it their all in a film that is a lot of fun.

The UnPopular Opinion, Romantic Comedy, Drama, Action, Reese Witherspoon, McG, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, This Means War

The primary complaints about THIS MEANS WAR center around the comprehensive film in regards to editing, pace, tone, and an emphasis on the creepy fact that the male leads are spying on their love interest in the name of besting the other. Putting aside the technical issues some have with the film, the fact that there is a complaint about the spying side of a story about spies is a bit ridiculous. The beloved action film TRUE LIES features similar elements when Arnold Schwarzenegger tries to find out what Jamie Lee Curtis is up to, even going as far as to have her do a striptease thinking he is someone else. That has become one of the most iconic scenes in film history and should not be regarded as creepy. In the realm of romance, anything goes as it should in comedies as well. Both Pine's FDR and Hardy's Turk are career spies who struggle with serious relationships and rely on what they know best: their jobs. I am all for equality and fairness when it comes to the portrayal of women on the big screen, but it is turning into overkill when we cannot even enjoy a fantasical plot just because of some minor quibbles.

THIS MEANS WAR works well because there is instant chemistry between all three leads. The bromance between Pine and Hardy is natural and made me hope for these two to be paired up again at some point. Reese Witherspoon, whom I usually do not enjoy seeing in lead roles, is perfectly cast as the object of both men's affections. The age gap between the three actors is irrelevant as they all play off of each other beautifully. Like similar romantic action films like KNIGHT AND DAY and the underappreciated Mel Gibson/Goldie Hawn movie BIRD ON A WIRE, THIS MEANS WAR blends elements from multiple genres to deliver a movie that is fun. This is not a film that was ever going to please critics but certainly one that should have pleased audiences. McG as a filmmaker is adept at making movies that are like candy: nice and sweet even if they don't do anything good for you. At it's worst, THIS MEANS WAR is harmless entertainment. At it's best, it is a fun time at the movies because it takes the familiar and formulaic and throws some twists to keep it fresh.

Light and glossy, THIS MEANS WAR is a studio creation through and through. The bad guy, played by an excellent Til Schwieger, does not register much screen time and the plot does not make the best use of his presence. But, this is not a movie where the plot truly matters. With Tom Hardy and Chris Pine as competing spies, there had to be a villain in the mix, but that aspect of the movie takes a back seat to the sex and humor. At a brisk 98 minutes, director McG does seem to struggle with balancing all elements of the genres on display, but his music video prowess and experience directing the action in CHARLIE'S ANGELS keeps the movie from being anything but boring. I  can honestly say that he throws everything on screen to keep the movie moving along and it primarily works in keeping the viewer from picking apart the obvious holes in logic. But, we don't watch movies like THIS IS WAR for the logic, we just want to see ridiculously good looking people flirting and shooting guns, right?

Produced by Will Smith and Simon Kinberg from a script co-penned by Kinberg, THIS MEANS WAR deals almost exclusively in cliches. There is not a moment where you don't know where the movie is going but there are enough curveballs along the way to keep even the most jaded viewer entertained. And isn't that the reason we watch movies like this? To be entertained? THIS MEANS WAR features supporting performances from Chelsea Handler, Jenny Slate, and Angela Bassett. All three women amount to a significant amount of screen time in a movie that does not focus too much on the male characters aside from Pine, Hardy, and Schweiger. In that sense, THIS MEANS WAR does a better job of balancing the gender roles than most action films. In fact, this movie puts the majority of the control in the hands of Reese Witherspoon's character who never comes off as a weak or two-dimensional character. Riddled with cliches, THIS MEANS WAR still manages to force the men to fight and reduce themselves to caricatures while the woman comes out on top. At the same time, it delivers on the set pieces, comedy, and violence we all come to expect from an action film.

The UnPopular Opinion, Romantic Comedy, Drama, Action, Reese Witherspoon, McG, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, This Means War

At it's core, THIS MEANS WAR is a dumb movie, but one that succeeds on pure magnetism and charisma of Tom Hardy, Chris Pine, and Reese Witherspoon. These characters may be the product of a thin script, but they are appealing enough that I would watch them go on another adventure together. While the underwhelming box office all but assures that will never happen, THIS MEANS WAR is best left as a standalone film that is frothy and empty but still satisfyingly fun. Both Chris Pine and Tom Hardy have shied away from the romantic genre and have instead focused on action and dramatic projects whereas Reese Witherspoon as thrived in the romantic comedy genre. Together, all three deliver enough charisma to make this film more than worthy of a date night viewing. I found myself smiling throughout the movie and enjoying the entire thing, warts and all. Here's hoping you give it a second chance.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!


About the Author

5925 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.