The Terminator (1984)


In a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has been made all but extinct by rebellious technology, a relentless killing machine is sent back in time to assassinate the mother of the human resistance leader who represents their only hope of salvation.

The original Terminator film is an exercise in sheer cinematic economy as James Cameron’s breakthrough film is as ruthlessly efficient as the murderous cyborg itself. There’s none of the schmaltz and sentimentality that went on to mar his later films and the taut direction and thrilling, bullet-riddled action sequences make for one of the most tense and brutal sci-fi action films ever made. The cynical may point out that Arnold’s robotic acting skills made him perfect for the part, but I think his performance is cruelly under-rated; as those who tried to fill his shoes in the later films can attest, it takes more than a big gun to make such a charismatic and intimidating presence and the final act actually suffers quite a bit for his absence. Some of the effects have dated a little but the make up and animatronics have stood up surprisingly well and the paradoxical time travel twist makes for a simple but ingenious story that’s told with the kind of vigour that’s sorely missing from most CGI infested blockbusters.

Seminal sci-fi.


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