A Focused Mind: The Terminator (1984)

Oct 19, 2001
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Schwartzenegger, supporting cast, story, direction, photography, score

Cons:None

The Bottom Line: This is one of the best sci-fi movies yet made. Kids raised on CGI may not be impressed, but they should be.


The Terminator is a look into the not-too-distant future where technology has run amok. The year is 2029 and the computers have taken over society. In fact, Skynet the super computer that watches over EVERYTHING has declared war on the human race. The opening scenes show a nightmarish world in which an army of automated machines make war on human beings, the scorched earth covered with human skulls and bones…

Somehow, time travel has been conquered and a combination humanoid robot is transferred back to 1984. This cyborg (cybernetic organism) has been sent by Skynet to kill the mother of the future leader of The Resistance before he is conceived!?! Got it?

Unbeknownst to Skynet, the Resistance has also sent somebody back to stop the cyborg - to assassinate the assassin… The only thing is, the Terminator is practically indestructible…

Arnold Schwartzenegger stars as The Terminator, a heartless cyborg with a one-track mind - kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). Naked as a jaybird, the Terminator beats up a gang of punks in order to get clothes, arms himsel, and finds a phonebook to get Sarah Connor's address. Finding that there are three listings with that name, he systematically goes about killing each of them. Luckily for our heroine, she is out when the Terminator arrives at her place but her roommate is killed, along with her boyfriend. Resistance leader Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) has already found Connor and waits for the Terminator's attack since he does not know what he looks like. This sets up the action that will drive the rest of the film to its thrilling climax.

Director/screenwriter James Cameron did a marvelous job with this, his first important film, and maybe his best so far. The story, unlike most action pictures is quite tight and well written (with assistance from Gale Ann Hurd. The love sequence that naturally blooms between Kyle and Sarah during the chaotic manhunt also provides a great plot twist: Kyle becomes the father of the resistance leader who sent him back to protect his mother!? Cameron constantly builds tension throughout the film, never letting up for a moment.

Schwartzenegger is perfectly cast as the unstoppable juggernaut, part machine, part human, and immune to pain and human feelings. Much of the action is shot from the Terminator's viewpoint and we can see his thought process as he continues on his inexorable search for his victim. Cameron has a good ear for dialog and humor as he shows the Terminator search through a mental list of possible responses before replying, "**** you @$$h01e!" Another three word line from the movie has passed into the English language, "I'll be back."

Lovely heartthrob Linda Hamilton is Sarah and does an excellent job moving from a vulnerable young woman to a real tough cookie as the film progresses. Michael Biehn is equally good as Kyle, but Schwartzenegger is almost overpowering in his portrayal. This is some of his best work.

Photography by Adam Greenberg is dark and gritty, perfectly suiting the gritty story. Special effects by Stan Winston are shockingly real. Music by Brad Fiedel is pulsating and perfectly suited to the action. All in all, The Terminator is one of the best science fiction pictures I have seen.

For those who enjoy gripping sci-fi pictures, I would also highly recommend Soylent Green, The Omega Man, and The Thing by John Carpenter.




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