Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) Directed by James Cameron. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong, Earl Boen and Joe Morton.
If someone said to me “Terminator 2 is the greatest film ever made…” – I wouldn’t argue. It is the kind of film that has you blindly spewing sentences like that, such is its vast, enduring appeal. I must have enjoyed it a dozen times, but with each repeat viewing, I marvel at its many achievements. With Aliens, James Cameron proved he could continue a story in a new and interesting way. Returning to his own baby, Cameron’s sequel to his 1984 sci-fi-horror is a tour-de-force of high spectacle, invention, and just downright thrills.
Arnold Schwarzenegger returns on top billing as the Terminator, travelling through time to intercept John Connor (Edward Furlong). Joining him is Robert Patrick’s T-1000, a new and improved liquid metal Terminator (mimetic poly-alloy for nerds). As you’d imagine, they have crossed purposes. Back also is Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, although she’s now housed in a psychiatric hospital after the authorities deemed her insane for acts of terrorism motivated by trying to prevent a future war.
Cameron is a master when it comes to this stuff. You get the feeling that some directors get lucky and everything just aligns and clicks into place at the right time. Not so with Cameron. Writer, director, producer…this man has complete control over his projects and moreover, he makes them they best they can be. The $100m production budget was a lot back in 1990, yet the money is there to see on the screen. The chase sequences alone would be enough to make a strong recommendation, but once again, Cameron gives us characters we embrace and understand. He allows us to immerse ourselves in both character and action, simultaneously. The CGI too, isn’t just a tool to show off. Cameron ensures that his CGI sequences are relevant and that they inventively contribute to the tension and excitement.
Where the original film was a dark, gritty horror, T2 is lighter on its feet; but without sacrificing the core underlying darkness. Much of the humour stems from the banter between Schwarzenegger and Furlong. Tonally, it is a more crowd-pleasing lean to one side, yet it arms the film with that crucial sense of humanity that so many films never attain. In short, we care about these characters.
History remembers the iconic imagery of Schwarzenegger as The Terminator, and while he might have boosted sales of Harley Davidson motorcycles and Ray-Bans, it is Linda Hamilton who is the dramatic centre of the piece. Her performance as Sarah Connor is a world away from the character we saw in 1984. Not only is Hamilton an entirely different physical specimen this time around, she carries the haunted look of a woman who knows far too much. It is a gutsy turn that carries over fascinatingly from the previous film.
Rich with exhilarating action, great character development and nail-biting suspense, Terminator 2 is the complete package. It aims high and scores higher. Its hard to imagine anyone leaving the cinema in 1991 being anything less than utterly blown away. 5/5