Posted in 1980s, Film Review

The Terminator (1984)

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Image is property of Hemdale, Pacific Western Productions and Orion Pictures

The Terminator – Film Review

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield

Director: James Cameron

Synopsis: A human looking cyborg is sent back to 1984 to assassinate a woman whose unborn son is set to lead humanity into a victorious war against the machines.  Yet, another soldier from the same war is also sent back to protect her at all costs, with the fate of the human race hanging in the balance…

Review: James Cameron, a man whose name is synonymous in Hollywood with big budgets, amazing CGI, and tremendous box office performances, and Oscars aplenty (three to be exact.) But way back when, when he was still trying to make a name for himself, he put out a film that was, simply put, a complete game changer for movie makers everywhere. It would launch a hugely popular franchise, and as crazy as that may seem, it would make a star out of an Austrian bodybuilder.  This film is of course, 1984’s The Terminator. 

The film is primarily set in 1984 and two people have been sent back to this era from 2029 for two very different reasons. One one hand we have our titular character, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is seeking out a woman named Sarah Connor who, unbeknownst to her, will have a future son who is set to lead humanity into a war against the machines. On the other hand, enter Kyle Reese who is out to protect Sarah at any cost. Thus we have ourselves a movie of cat and mouse that is pretty darn thrilling and awesome. The action scenes are brilliantly well handled and expertly shot. Like all great action films, the momentum is there, and the audience barely has any time to breathe as the villainous Terminator hunts its prey down with no remorse or emotion whatsoever, killing people mercilessly along the way.

With an iconic movie, comes an iconic performance, and that certainly belongs to Schwarzenegger. He is a man of action, and few words, although a number of those words have since become well quoted and much loved movie quotes. He is ruthless and efficient as he hunts down his target, and will kill anyone and everyone who stands in his way. It was a role that was perfect for the Austrian and he absolutely owned it. Also great are the performances of both Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese and Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Hamilton as Connor is this shy, timid waitress who does very little to fend for herself, but then again when you’re faced with a T-800 cyborg ruthless killing machine, there is not a lot you can do except run for your life! Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese is also excellent, he is a man who like the Terminator will stop at nothing, to protect Sarah from coming to harm. It’s with these two performances that, for all of the intense action, and shooting etc, comes the movie’s heart and character. They have great chemistry together and as the two bond as they seek to evade the Terminator’s clutches, and as their relationship develops, it packs real emotion into this thrilling, action packed ride.

This was only Cameron’s second feature film, his first being 1981’s Piranha Part Two: The Spawning, but with this creation, it put him on the map and launched a franchise, a very popular one at that that has had some mixed fortunes along the way (we will get to that later!) With some incredible special effects for the time, that were very revolutionary. Particularly in today’s world, where some movie and movie franchises tend to over rely on special effects to get the thrills the audience desire. The Terminator showed that you can have some great effects, but with a little bit of heart and emotion thrown into the mix as well, it can go a long way to making your movie stand out among the rather large crowd of action movies.  It was a landmark piece of movie making and as the Terminator himself said, in what has now become an immortal line of dialogue; “I’ll be back,” and come back he did, sometimes triumphantly, sometimes not. Yet, the impact of this film remains strong to this day, over three decades since its release, and for that, movie goers everywhere sing James Cameron’s praises.

With some riveting action, ground breaking special effects for the time, a memorable performance from Arnie, and a heartfelt and emotional story to boot,  The Terminator provided a blueprint for how to make a top action movie, and holds up some 30 years after its original release.

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