James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984) marks the beginning of a wonderful two-part arc, brimming with style and substance. The film follows Sarah Connor, a waitress living in Los Angeles. One night, a cybernetic organism (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent back in time to kill Sarah. A human resistance fighter (Michael Biehn) is also sent back in time, with the intent of saving Sarah from this deadly foe.
Today, Cameron’s film is labeled a science fiction classic. In all honesty, it’s a lean and mean sci-machine, layered with character exploration, ongoing suspense and gritty action. The practical effects create an atmosphere of immersive proportions, complete with miniatures, stop motion, and puppetry. At every turn, Cameron molds his tale into a horror film of sorts, building up the Terminator’s unstoppable nature. The mechanical creature’s formidable characterization is most apparent during Cameron’s bruising action scenes, which possess a raw sense of power. These set pieces impress from a visual perspective, but credit must be given to composer Brad Fiedel, whose synthesized score cinematically bolsters this fast-paced narrative.
Cameron has always been a filmmaker who delivers satisfying spectacle. His knack for visual storytelling is unbelievably expansive. But overall, Cameron’s visual impact is brought to life through the powerful utilization of character. In very subtle ways, he focuses on the adversity that plagues his protagonists, and as the film nears its end, he focuses on the bond between lovers. As a result, the film has an abundance of narrative weight.
When it comes to social diversity, “The Terminator” isn’t the most impressive film ever made. However, it’s inclusive pieces are extremely respectable. The late Paul Winfield (a talented African American actor) plays Ed Traxler, an ethical police Lieutenant. Even in a supporting role, Winfield makes a huge impression, giving off feel-good vibes that relax the propulsive storyline.
Cameron is widely known to be a filmmaker who creates strong female characters. Oddly enough, “The Terminator” was the first film to showcase Cameron’s knack for female-oriented storytelling. As Sarah Connor, Linda Hamilton turns in a legendary performance, consisting of purity, fragility, and relatability. She reacts like any normal person would, and as a result, we are able to latch onto her.
The screenplay allows Connor to progress as a young woman, and in turn, we see the resilient warrior that lies within. Michael Biehn’s committed performance injects the film with a ton of urgency, giving the character of Connor a natural sense of development, devoid of monotonous aspects. Biehn and Hamilton have fantastic chemistry, setting a romantic foundation that feels accurate and worthwhile. Even with these romantic components, the love story never feels irritating.
In conclusion, I highly recommend “The Terminator.” It’s a classic piece of filmmaking, which manages to balance spectacle and humanistic progression. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (a native of Austria) lethal performance is a pinnacle of cinematic villainy, and his unmatched presence provides the narrative with monstrous intensity. Ladies and gentlemen, check out this film. You will be pleased!
Originally published by Dillon McCarty for Incluvie on November 6, 2019
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