The Terminator – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: James Cameron

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Earl Boen

Synopsis: A deadly killing machine called a Terminator, model T-101 (Schwarzenegger), has been transported back in time from the year 2029 to the year 1984.   His target is a simple waitress, Sarah Connor (Hamilton).   She has been selected for termination given that her unborn son, John, will one day lead the resistance against the machines that have taken over the planet in the Terminator’s time-frame.   Luckily for Sarah, John also sent a colleague, Kyle Reese (Biehn) back in time to protect her.

A review by Film Nerd.

After having reviewed a new release, I felt it was time to return to an absolute classic.   Return to a film that, though dated now, was revolutionary for the time.   A film that was a defining moment in cinematic history.   A film that introduced an iconic character with his most famous, most often quoted line.   All together now;

“I’ll be back!”

Having already referred to the special effects, I will begin there.   To bring the more visceral elements of the T-101 to life, make-up effects were more than effectively used.   However, by today’s standards, the make-up was not perfect in the more complicated scenes (the T-101 removing a defective eye for instance).   Also, when the opportunity to observe the Terminator exoskeleton alone in action (Terminators are cyborgs, robots with flesh covering to appear human and infiltrate resistance cells), the stop-motion style filming does come across as a little choppy.   But this is 1984, we are talking about here, and I have no doubt that this would have scared audiences at the time, the efforts being made to bring this to screen really expanding on techniques that would have been previously available.

What makes the film stand up to viewing to a modern audience is the action, the story and the characters.   The story is quite complex, with time travel, attempts by the Terminator to alter the timeline while Reese tries to preserve it, causality loops indicating Reese’s future would not have been the same if he had never come back in time in the first place… basically the type of stuff that scares a lot of people away from science fiction.   If you are into this stuff, it can lead to hours of entertaining debate.   If you are not, you can at least get the gist and wait to enjoy the next action sequence.   Said action sequences early on do not rely on visual trickery so much as they do great car chases, fight scenes, and various attempts to by our heroes escape by the skin of their teeth.   The 80’s was a great period for that stuff, or course generally matched to a heavily synthesized soundtrack.

The final element I mentioned above was characters.   Schwarzenegger is perfectly blank the entire film, a relentless automaton that will not stop, will not feel pain, will not be deterred.   I am not sure if it is a lack of acting that manages this or a perfection of acting, but to this day it remains positively chilling.   Reese comes across as a capable soldier, a man who has grown up in time of war, and yet whose humanity has not been destroyed despite the bloodshed.   Hamilton’s Sarah Connor has the most interesting story arc, moving from being entirely incapable to even wait tables, yet by the end, with the knowledge of the war to come, is able to step up and respond.

Most of you reading this have probably already seen the film.   Trust me, it is time to revisit it, it is a masterpiece, despite the effects of the passage of time.   For those few whom have not seen it, just like my Bride, it is time to correct this grievous error.

4 stars (out of a possible 5)

The Terminator on IMDB

The Terminator on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=]

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