Got to see this one on the big screen for the first time (I was all of two years old when it first came out) and I had the same experience I had when I saw it on blu-ray a few years ago. It seems every time I sit down to watch this movie, I remember that it’s good, but end up kind of gobsmacked all over again at just how great it is. It’s really a near perfect film, not a wasted moment or line. It moves like a wave of fire, just an unstoppable story burning through your brain as you watch it, much like the titular villain is an unstoppable force as well. The film manages to maintain an unstoppable energy and forward drive while also finding moments to let the characters of Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor both fully develop in a really beautiful organic way, until we actually buy the romantic subplot, which would typically come off as cheesy in an action movie like this one. This is helped immensely by the really wonderful performances by both Biehn & Hamilton, both at either peak (Biehn) or near peak (Hamilton) form. Add in Cameron’s really smart and atmospheric direction and Fiedel’s iconic, deceptively simple score and you’d have a kind of masterpiece already. But, yes, the element that makes the film really, really work is Schwarzenegger; it’s a wonder he didn’t get typecast as a villain, so unbelievably and unbearably wonderful is he here as the unstoppable, pitiless, remorseless killer of the title. Schwarzenegger is often seen as a performer that gets by on screen with his admittedly extreme charisma and likeability, but a movie like this reminds you of just what a great actor he really was. The way he moves is eerily machine like; he runs like he weighs a ton, pounding the ground with his massive boots, but when he’s analyzing or processing, as in a scene where he searches for his prey in a stolen police car, his head and body move in a fast, herky-jerky fashion, totally unnatural and unnerving. It’s probably still his finest performance. But enough already; it’s a great movie and you know it as well as I do and, much as I do love the brighter, flashier blockbuster sequel, it’s the nightmarishly bleak and existential original that holds the highest place in my heart and in my head. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – dark, unflagging, well characterized & acted, this film is atmospheric and compelling from start to finish; it’s still a near Platonic ideal for action films. 4 stars