The Terminator (1984)

James Cameron directs Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn in this sci-fi classic where a killing machine from the future is sent back to execute the mother of the leader of the human rebellion against the robots.

How do I write a précis of one the most formative movies of my life?

A brilliant slambang actioner – absolutely relentless and immersive, heroes scramble between uzi bursts, shotguns momentarily subdue, motorcycles evade explosives in high speed chases.

A nightmarish realisation of us Cold War kids’ fears – a fallout devastated future of rubble, skulls, gargantuan tanks and chrome skeletons covered in bodybuilder’s flesh. I genuinely grew up expecting mutually assured destruction to leave either this or Mad Max as the world I might be an adult in.

The time twisting romance that adds a bold emotional through line to all the violence and SFX – “I came across time for you Sarah. I love you; I always have.”!

The greatest movie sex scene ever – urgent, desperate, hands gripping clean sheets, tenderness and raw humanity snatched in a rare respite from the chase.

Cameron’s clean and confident direction – frames are invaded, a detailed world with zero clutter, convincing whether gritty street guerilla shots of LA life or high fantasy.

Brad Fidel’s perfect score – pneumatic and highly hummable as the bookending theme, chaotic and overloaded when danger closes in.

The slow reveal of T-800 inhuman form – sure, these FX have dated in places but I remember being a highly inappropriate age (6?) and watching / not watching Arnie remove his eyeball at my uncle’s house and it being a watershed moment in my awareness and love of cinema.

Arnie – a supernova is born, his only true villain role, terrifying and convincing as the unstoppable predator.

Michael Biehn – scrabbling around a civilisation he barely understands, stealing cool kicks and going commando in tramp pants, looking awesome in his sawn-off concealing trenchcoat, convincing as man who’ll put himself between you and a gargantuan, as a man who has eaten rat and witnessed genocide yet still retains his decency.

Linda Hamilton – Sarah Connor: Phase One, big hair, awesome t-shirts, shifting from shell shock to grizzled survivor in the space of a weekend.

I’ve always preferred this over T2. The punkish pulse of it appeals more. I’d love someone to release a soundtrack of all the forgotten New Wave pop that permeates the first act. Love how Cameron’s bank breaking world vision of fatalistic humour, perilous action and macho romance is so well defined this early on. We were spoilt as children. No other generation had their gateway movies quite so savage yet exquisite.

10

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

One comment

  1. Sam Simon · July 22

    Great post! I fully understand you: it’s hard to write about this movie (I also grew up watching and rewatching this masterpiece), but you managed to be concise and effective, your love for it is evident! I also wrote a sort of review of The Terminator on my blog but I have the feeling that you did a better job. :–)

    Liked by 1 person

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