The Terminator is a 1984 American science fiction action movie directed by James Cameron; best known for Hollywood blockbusters that include, among others, Aliens, True Lies and Titanic. It centres on Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), a Los Angeles native who alongside her liaison in Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) aim to quell an imminent futuristic danger in the form of a Cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
There are a lot of reasons why James Cameron is the arguably one of if not the best directors to ever grace Hollywood; his resume speaks for itself. The best thing I like about him is the fact that he is a visionary; seeing the most probable future that the world is moving gradually towards and in turn taking us, through his movies, to it before we even think about whether or not we want to experience it in the first place. Be it the concept of alien life in our cosmos or even the possibility of time travel and a Machine dominated world, he has evidently left little to no stones un-turned in relation to science-fiction and this film I am reviewing is very much a testament of the latter.
At the onset, we get introduced to the T-800 Model 101 Terminator, who I will be referring to as “Arnie Cyborg” from this point onward in my synopsis for convenience reasons and also because I think it’s cool. From the moment it appears on-screen you know it means business; I don’t really get why it came naked from the future but all in all, those few guys who failed to comply with its order to hand in their clothes got a vivid taste of the cyborg’s violent potential and I loved it. Basically, it’s on a strict mission to kill Sarah Connor and thus if you try and compromise the cause in any way, it will kill you. Shortly after, there is another time travel event and this time, it involves a real man, Kyle Reese to be precise. He has also been sent from the future and unlike the robot, he is confused, draws the attention of the authorities but as far as his intent is concerned, protecting Sarah Connor from an early demise is all he has to do.
Speaking of the angel, she is just a young ordinary vibrant lady trying to make ends meet at a local diner. She is not in any way stress-free, in fact her job is the very epitome of stress; confusedly serving many customers with no help whatsoever. Just to add a bit of salt to injury, an errant kid has the nerve of placing an ice-cream inside her apron pocket; funny moment by the way, for me of course, not so much for her.
Unbeknownst to Sarah, two parties are in search of her and who coincidentally employ an identical way of finding her location; the phone-booth directory. I am not quite conversant with why the phone-booths housed directories containing information on people’s residences that anyone could get access to but one thing’s for sure, they must have been a bane to the existence of any serial killer target; in this case, anyone named Sarah Connor. There are quite a number of them around town but Arnie Cyborg is taking no chances, it opts to kill them all of them in the order they appear in the directory.
The latter was quite an interesting arc in the movie for me. The killings raised a lot of eyebrows and caused a considerable amount of tension not only for the locals, but the police department as well with Lieutenant Ed (Paul Winfield) and Dr. Silberman (Earl Boen) being the officers in the thick of it all. In the beginning, the two treated it as a mere homicide case but once the identical patterns started to occur, it became real serious real fast and thus they make it their business to reach out to any S.C they can find.
Eventually, they do manage to get in contact with one of them and it so happened to be the ‘real’ Sarah Connor if you know what I mean. By the time Connor’s life takes a turn for the worst and she is scampering for to keep herself safe, the film has already given you a compelling reason to invest in her character and why she ought to stay alive. It’s simple, there’s a killer-bot on the loose tracking her innocent soul with her only ‘mistake’ being the fact that she was going to give life to the outright leader of The Resistance.
The action sequences are quite the gem for an 80’s movie; the gunfights where my personal favourites. Whether it was in a club, while driving on the streets or just in a police-station swarming with armed police officers, the killer cyborg could seriously hold his own. By now, I assume you have already seen The Terminator but even if you haven’t and you eventually do, I think you’ll agree with me that Arnie Cyborg is one of if not the most intelligent robots to grace any film.
It knows every single type of ammunition in existence and how they work, knows how to drive a vehicle and do a perfect drift as well, knows that stealing a police vehicle and accessing select information through the communication equipment is the most convenient way of tracking Sarah Connor and finally, it knows how to escape the scene of an accident Batman style; what more could you earnestly want in a robot? The attributes of this cyborg just goes a long way to show you the sheer might of Skynet and why Schwarzenegger’s character had to be their last and most efficient throw of the dice to save their legacy; a legacy threatened by the Resistance more so John Connor.
That said, this James Cameron project is not without blemish. The montages in some of the action scenes weren’t appealing to eye, at least from a critic’s point of view case in point the car chase scene where the authorities are in pursuit of Sarah and Kyle. The shots were cut too fast and thus I didn’t really get absorbed into the stakes in play as much as I would have wanted to. Secondly, The Resistance sending an emissary just about the same time as SkyNet made sense; John Connor felt an immediate threat to the impending victory they were to accomplish and thus sent one of his own men to secure it.
However, we don’t get to see these scenes in the movie and we only know of them through Kyle Reese’s narrations to Sarah Connor and later on to the police officers. In spite of the fact that I hold Cameron’s film-making in high esteem, he should have known better than to exclude these scenes which I feel would have enhanced the tone of the film and breathed more life to the agendas of both Reese and Arnie Cyborg. Last but not least, there is the paradox issue. Picture this, if Kyle Reese was sent from the 2027 future to the 1984 past to secure a future with John Connor in it but died in the process, how does he then exist in 2027 to be sent when he died in 1984?; well, that’s quite the head-scratching question, isn’t it?
When all is said and done, you can’t really dispute with the immense Box Office numbers accredited to The Terminator vis-à-vis the amount of money it took to make the film in the first place. It’s a great movie; Arnold Schwarzenegger can do no wrong when he is in a lead role and I solemnly see myself watching this movie again in the future; maybe I should see it in 2027? That would be a perfect way to pay homage to this spectacle of a motion-picture.