Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Terminator

1984, US, directed by James Cameron

Although the visual effects for the scenes set in 2029 are almost quaint now - closer in spirit to Ray Harryhausen than to the CGI transformations of which James Cameron has been a key supporter - the core of The Terminator remains intact: a trim, single-minded chase movie which ably builds on the heritage of genre cinema. The reference points to John Carpenter's movies are particularly obvious, whether in the set-piece assault on a police precinct or the tense sequence with Sarah Connor's roommate which recalls something of Halloween.

Like Kathryn Bigelow's Point Break a few years later, what's critical in the action sequences is Cameron's sense of placement, and our consequent awareness of the physical peril in which his characters find themselves as their cars and bodies whip across the screen. The script, too, is smart, and indeed smarter than in several of Cameron's subsequent, longer films: it's taciturn for the most part, particularly when it comes to Arnold Schwarzenegger's eponymous character, but witty in dealing with the problems that confront Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) when he must not only present Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) with an outlandish tale but must also ensure she believes him to be entirely serious and sane.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States