By Philip Newton (England)
The Terminator still manages to excite after all these years and despite some less than spectacular special effects which owes somewhat to its budget, an intelligent and imaginative script along with truly authentic believable performances and James Cameron’s direction helped create a nightmarish vision of the future, being both tense and moving.
Arnold Schwarzenegger in arguably his most iconic performance plays the infamous Cyborg sent back through time in a mission to kill the woman whom will give birth to a future soldier who will lead a rebellion against the machines following a nuclear war. Schwarzenegger is truly frightening in the role and succeeds in part due to his hulking presence as well as in how he moves and his facial expression, there is not a wasted motion every movement he makes is simply getting from point A to B. His facial expressions also embody a predator searching for his prey surveying the scene looking for the right point to strike, it is so mechanical, programmed and relentless we believe what lies under the flesh which is not an easy task to pull off and Schwarzenegger play’s a major factor in what makes the film work.
While Schwarzenegger delivers from the action side of things, the drama and emotion belongs to Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor the target of the Terminator and mother to the future John Connor and Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese a soldier from the future sent back through time to protect Sarah giving hope to the future rebellion. The chemistry between these two actors allows for a collection of truly poignant moments of emotion, as the relationship grows and we the audience begin to understand the crucial roles that both these characters will play helps create a genuine sense of believability in their relationship which is captivating.
Biehn is engaging delivering this story in a way that is both informative, as well as moving as his character is the only one who can reveal what is happening in terms of back story and if this had been done wrong could have killed the film flat. He manages to make it work and pulls out a truly great performance one which is both tough as well as being vulnerable showing a man lost in time, knowing what his mission is however confused over his feelings towards it.
Linda Hamilton also follows in the footsteps from Sigourney Weaver in Alien as a defining cinematic heroine who can defend herself against a threat, the character of Sarah Connor begins the film as an everyday girl and over the course of the story grows in her inner strength as she begins to understand her role to where at the end she is both resilient and defiant.
Director James Cameron brings the whole piece together in regards to its structure and dark and Nourish visuals. The film is tightly paced there is nonstop action and violence which keeps us on the edge of our seat at all times, and has some very well made action set pieces, the nightclub scenes for example especially in its slow motion sequence with the Terminator confronting Sarah Conner allows to extend that feeling of tension and uncertainty of what is going to happen next. The police station scene as well is full of nerve jangling unease and a great eighties synthesized score is effective as well.
The film is so well paced between its action scenes and it knows when to slow it down for drama, the flashback sequences depicting the future also bring to life the horrors which are spoken of in the present.
Overall this is an influential science fiction landmark which in my opinion has the edge over its bigger budgeted sequel with a more ambitious and intelligent story.