The Terminator

James Cameron, USA 1984, 108 minutes

The Terminator takes the old paradox of what would happen if you could travel back in time and murder your own grandparents and gives it a new twist as Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in the title role as a cyborg sent back to kill the mother of an important resistance leader of the man-machine wars being fought in the future. Confused? Well even if you don't follow the plot you can marvel at the bravado of director James Cameron who creates an entirely believable, and yet utterly fantastic, battle for the survival of the human race.

As the mother, Linda Hamilton defines a new female film role model - strong, decisive and yet occasionally vulnerable. She is helped by a human sent back in time by the resistance to aid her (the dishy Michael Biehn) but even together they seem to be no match for the awesome killing machine portrayed by Arnie. He is perfectly suited to this role which requires him to be menacing, flex his muscles and say the occasional syllable.

Based (like Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys) on the short experimental film La Jetée, it is a warning to those in power today not to forget that our children will inherit our mistakes. It's also extremely good, testosterone-toting fun, as Arnie demolishes buildings etc. in his pursuit of Hamilton. More chillingly violent (as opposed to comic book - reflected in the film's rating) than its successor, including one gruesome home surgery tutorial, the film is liberally dashed with Cameron's audacious visual style, mixing a dark neo-gothic atmosphere with the bright lights of city life. Even if you think you've seen it before, not to be missed.

"A blazing, cinematic comic book, full of virtuoso moviemaking, terrific momentum, solid performances, and a compelling story" - Variety

Review by Neil Chue Hong
Taken from EUFS Programme 1996-97