Before his ego rampaged completely out of control, James Cameron made one of the best sci-fi, action films ever to grace the big screen. THE TERMINATOR is a simple story with it's focus in the right place on its characters. By casting then unknown actors (Hamilton and Arnold), he had to focus on creating a unique, exciting and interesting story. The special effects are only there because they need to be, not to showcase the latest, coolest computer technology. It's a rare treat, and one I have the feeling we won't be seeing again anytime soon.
Linda Hamilton plays Sarah Conner, a normal woman who gets thrust into a fight for her survival when a machine-based killer from the future tries to end her life thereby changing the future of the society that created it. With her death, her unborn son will be eliminated, allowing the machine-dominated society full reign over the Earth and effectively crushing the human resistance before it begins. Sarah is completely unprepared for the fight of her life she's just a waitress trying to make ends meet and can't believe this is happening to her.
Kyle, a friend of her sons, comes back in time in order to protect Sarah from the "Terminator" and save the reality of his future. Initially, she doesn't believe him, but after seeing Arnold get up from various hideous accidents that would destroy a regular human, she starts to trust him. His story sounds crazy, but no human being could live through the punishment the Terminator endures. She wins in the end, but at the price of her innocence. She knows what is coming and is determined to make sure she and her unborn son survive at all cost. The twists and turns of this story are enough to keep you and your friends arguing until the end of time. It's sci-fi, time-bending storytelling at its best.
On the surface THE TERMINATOR is just a regular action/horror chase film. Bad guy who can't die trys to kill good girl. It's been done a million times. However, its unique and intelligent backstory make it a film that you can watch over and over. You get sucked in every time, thinking that with this viewing you'll actually figure it out. (You never will.) Linda Hamilton is great as Sarah. She goes from being a regular, somewhat quiet, kind of gal, to a woman of strength and conviction. You couldn't ask for a better role. The one thing Cameron really knows how to do is create great women characters. Arnold is truly scary as the unemotional killing machine. It was the perfect breakthrough role for him high-profile, but not alot of dialogue.
There aren't a lot of special effects in this film. It relies mainly on traditional shoot-em-up and chase sequences to fill its action quota. But I get goosebumps every time I watch it. The tension mounts at the perfect pace, creating a compelling mixture of excitement and character development. By the end of the film I'm on the edge of my seat, wondering if she's actually going to get away even though I know she does. In my opinion, Cameron should watch this film again so he can see what truly great filmmaking looks like. Great films are about people, not special effects. THE TERMINATOR delivers on every level.