Review: “The Terminator”

It has been seventeen years since it hit theatres, yet James Cameron’s sci-fi thriller has aged a lot better than most thanks to its great story and urbane feel. It has been a while since I saw it last, but looking at it again – and for the first time in proper widescreen – I was surprised how solid it managed to stay.

I recalled the sci-fi “exposition” stuff with Kyle doing his long lectures to be hokey though surprisingly there’s only one or two cringe-worthy moments of dialogue in the middle of the film which isn’t surprising as the second act is easily the weakest. The first act remains the best with the arrival of the two mysterious people from the future.

This is Schwarzenegger’s most identifiable role and the almost complete lack of dialogue does help, but as a performance compared to some of his others it’s not one for pushing his boundaries – he does make a good baddie though. There’s also lots of cute 80’s references in here, a time when punk was cool and big frizzy hair was in everywhere.

What really shines though is the suspense elements such as Arnie’s fast disposal of the other Sarah Connors – you know both guys are after her (at least one certain to kill her) and they’re both closing in with the ‘Tech Noir’ meeting a truly classic sequence. As I said the second act remains the weakest and whilst Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton give really good performances, both do have some bad dialogue and scenes which do go on a bit long (great to see a sex scene though that’s vital to the plot).

Its also good fun to see younger versions of Paul Winfield and Lance Henrikssen in action. The third then goes into action overdrive with some dodgy FX that still hold up well. The action in this movie is sadly the other bit that has aged – by the fifth car chase you’re wondering if they can do something a little different.

Nevertheless, it’s a solid ‘bones only’ story which rockets along with underlying themes of anti-nuclear war which thankfully are kept very subtle (unlike the sequel where your basically bludgeoned over the head with the message). Still a classic both then and now.