Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"The Terminator" (1984)

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton
Written by James Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd
Directed by James Cameron
Rated R - Violence, language, nudity
Running time: 107 minutes

The Terminator [Blu-ray]I've already reviewed James Cameron's bigger, badder sequel for this blog.  But over the weekend, I attended a double feature at the Somerville Theatre of "The Terminator" and "RoboCop."  It was fantastic.  It was great seeing these two sci-fi action classics up on a big screen with a crowd that's totally into it.

Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is a meek young girl working a thankless job as a waitress in a busy diner in Los Angeles.  One day, two other women nearby are brutally murdered.  Both of them were named Sarah Connor, as well.  Sarah tries to contact the police, who tell her to sit tight and they'll come pick her up.  Before the police arrive, however, Sarah is discovered by the killer - a huge man with more weaponry than the local militia.  She's rescued by another man, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) who tells her exactly what's going on: Sarah has been targeted by a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) - a cyborg from the future intent on killing her before she can give birth to a son, John, who will lead the human resistance in a war against sentient machines.

The Terminator will not stop.  It cannot be reasoned with, it does not feel pity or remorse for its actions.  It is a killing machine, and nothing more.  Reese must figure out a way to keep Sarah safe and destroy the machine in order to preserve the future.

"The Terminator" is a pretty simple movie, a chase film that moves from point A to B to C, rarely stopping for breath in between.  You've got Sarah and Reese on one side, being chased by the Terminator, and a whole bunch of innocent people and cops who get caught in the middle.  The film is loaded with chase sequences and gunfights, each bigger and more impressive than the last.  As a lower budget picture, it doesn't have quite the visual "wow" of its successors, but it does more than fine with what it had to work with.  The stop-motion and makeup effects for the robotic Terminator and its various stages of injury and decay are pretty impressive, even if obviously fake.

It's also a relentless film, terrifying in its depictions of cold-hearted violence and a future where humans live in constant fear of eradication at the hands of machine intelligence that simply doesn't care.  The Terminator has absolutely no feelings, other than the utter destruction of anything that gets in its way.  It creates an atmosphere of dread and fear and doesn't let up until the final moments.

"The Terminator" is one hell of a ride.  It has rightly cemented itself as a modern classic, a thrilling, terrifying action picture filled with impressive filmmaking and iconic characters.

See Also
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Terminator: Salvation