Reviewed Jul 30, 2012
Adam Cook’s review:
There are two types of people in this world; those that prefer the relentlessness of the original Terminator and those that favour the spectacle of T2: Judgement Day. Although both are excellent films in their own right I am firmly in the former camp.
Whilst some may say that the film’s ‘80s trappings and special effects date the film (these people would be wrong, by the way) it is hard to deny that it is one lean motherfucker. There is not an inch of fat on this film, from the opening few minutes to the terror soaked finale, it is a film that refuses to let up. It also marked the last film directed by Cameron that wasn’t a little bloated or indulgent. As spectacular as the sequel is, and in isolation it has more impressive set pieces, it is still a film that could benefit with a little nip and tuck here or there. The Terminator, by comparison, is perfectly paced with no scene, line of dialogue or gesture wasted.
The whole film drips with atmosphere, not only thanks to the moody cinematography but also the stunning Brad Fiedel score that mirrors the frightening persistence of the Terminator robot. In many ways it is easy to forget just how brilliant this film is, it wasn’t merely the launch pad for both Cameron and Schwarzenegger and an iconic catchphrase, it perhaps marks the pinnacle of both of their careers. Whilst it is true that Linda Hamilton is a weak link in the film her performance is still perfectly adequate and she has a decent chemistry with Michael Biehn, an actor who really should have had a better career than he did.
But the acting is secondary to the way Cameron wrings every last ounce of tension out of the story. He has consistently proven what a good action director he is but in The Terminator he sustains that tension throughout, continually ratcheting up the suspense and leaving the audience on the edge of their seats. The nightmarish scenario of an unstoppable force trying to kill you has never been so brilliantly realised as it is here. No matter what happens to the T-800 it will not stop and that ceaseless threat seeps into every single frame of film. Arnie, particularly pre-comedy roles, makes for an imposing and intimidating figure too but it is the iconic work by Stan Winston that really sells this nightmarish vision sent from the future. Whilst the groundbreaking CGI in the sequel may make The Terminator look a little creaky in the special effects department it is impossible to deny what a brilliant creation the T-800 really is.
The Terminator is a taut, perfectly paced and unrelenting action film the likes of which we have yet to see again.