Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Terminator (1984)

"I'll be back."

Ahem. Sorry about the obvious quote.

I've seen this film many times, of course, but not within the last twenty years. And is it not brilliant? This is a taut, imaginative thriller focused on one killer, one woman and her lover who, in a wonderful twist, was sent back in time by his own son. The world-building of Skynet and the world of 2029 are not the focus here, just a plot point, and the scenes in 2029 are shot to be deliberately vague and dreamlike- appropriately so, as these scenes are usually being dreamed by Kyle. We aren't even told exactly when everything will go pear-shaped- it's just described as being "a few years from now".

What's especially noticeable now is how very of its time the film is. It has model work! Which is, of course, superb. The hair, on the other hand, isn't. This is the same year that William Gibson published the seminal "Neuromancer" and you can tell. Everything screams Cyberpunk; even the nightclub is called "Tech Noir". And it has to be said that thrillers were much better in the days before mobile phones.

Much of the film's success lies in the fact that the first two thirds are spend establishing just how unstoppable and relentless the Terminator is. It kills the other Sarah Connors, establishing a real sense of fear on behalf of our poor protagonist, and not even an entire station of police officers can stop it. This leads nicely to a bittersweet romantic interlude, a sex scene with truly world-shaping consequences and the tension-filled final confrontation.

I like Sarah. She kicks ass as a female in a very male-dominated genre. Ok, she's still defined primarily as a mother to a male child, and the film fails the Bechdel test spectacularly, but you can't have everything! This is  justifiably acclaimed film and one I've left far too long to watch again.

All this and we get a very young Bill Paxton as a street punk. A real joy to see again after all this time.

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