The Terminator | Chicago Reader

The Terminator

James Cameron's resourceful low-budget thriller (1984) recalls the canny exploitation work of the old New World Pictures. Arnold Schwarzenegger is an automated hit man of the future sent back to present-day Los Angeles to eliminate the future mother (Linda Hamilton) of a rebel leader; her only hope is a bashful guerrilla fighter (Michael Biehn) who has followed Schwarzenegger back through time. Cameron's direction of the ensuing chase owes a lot to George Miller and John Carpenter (not to mention Chuck Jones), yet the characterization of the violence has something agonizingly original about it: Schwarzenegger is presented as a lumbering slab of dumb, destructive strength-the image is more geological than human-and Cameron plays his crushing weightiness against the strangely light, almost graceful violence of the gunplay directed against him. The results have the air of a demented ballet.

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