movie film review | chris tookey

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

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  Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Review
Tookey's Rating
8 /10
Average Rating
6.93 /10
Terminator: Arnold Schwarzenegger , John Connor: Nick Stahl, Kate Brewster: Claire Danes
Full Cast >

Directed by: Jonathan Mostow
Written by: John Brancato, Michael Ferris and Tedi Sarafian

Released: 2003
Origin: US
Length: 0

Now in his twenties, John Connor (Nick Stahl, pictured left) tries to avoid his destiny as saviour of humanity by dropping out of society and living as a homeless junkie. But the machines won’t let him lie low.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Arnold Schwarzenegger (pictured centre) is back, as promised, back - and T3 delivers as many thrills than the rest of this year's blockbusters put together. It also finds time to make us laugh. After the over-solemn Matrix Reloaded and Hulk, that is a considerable relief.

Inevitably, a second sequel can not be entirely fresh or original. You'll be able to predict a good deal of what's on offer, and this could well be the noisiest film ever made.

The pleasant surprise is that the script is witty and inventive. The fights and chases manage to be exciting, amusing and enormously destructive, as in the very best Bonds. The film moves along at a tremendous pace, and at 109 minutes doesn't outstay its welcome.

As in T2, the most lethal and indestructible cyborg yet comes back from the future to hunt him down. The main difference is that this time the killing machine is a Nordic blonde (Kristanna Loken) who looks like a potential Mrs Rod Stewart, and she's out to exterminate not only Connor but also his future associates, including an unsuspecting vet called Kate Brewster (Claire Danes, pictured right).

Schwarzenegger, naturally, plays a more primitive cyborg with nothing on his mind except the job of saving Connor and co.

Big Arnold's career has fizzled out recently, commercially and creatively, and he's been turning his thoughts to Californian politics. But no actor on earth, living or dead, could surpass his deadpan, semi-robotic delivery of funny lines here. Okay, he'll never be Bob Hope, let alone play King Lear; but in the Terminator he has created one of the cinema's most memorable icons.

The central joke is, of course, the super-powerful Terminator's utter incompetence when trying to interact with human beings. There's a classic comedy sequence early on as this futuristic, pumped up version of John Redwood arrives on earth, naked as always, and sets out in search of appropriate clothing, only to stumble across a hen night, where he's assumed to be the male stripper…

And there's the paradox of his being dedicated to the person he is to save, yet monumentally lacking in tact. When the two human leads momentarily forget their troubles and smile at each other, he's just the one to poop the party with words that are truthful but insensitive.

"Your levity is good," he intones in a robotic attempt at encouragement. "It removes tension. And the fear of death."

But it's not just Arnold who's worth the price of admission. The acting as a whole is well above average for an action flick. Claire Danes plays a nice, down-to-earth young woman who's engaged to be married and has no idea that the world is coming to an end. She gives this character reality and depth, showing again the intelligence and transparency of emotion that make her one of the classiest actresses in Hollywood.

The script helps by making her do believable things under threat, such as calling the police, screaming for help and taking every possible opportunity to escape. Far too many movie damsels in distress fail to do these obvious things and forfeit credibility as a result.

Nick Stahl (last seen suffering premature death in In The Bedroom) lacks charisma but has an everymannish quality as he struggles to come to terms with being the saviour of humanity. There's plenty to admire in his sparkiness, especially in comparison with the dead-behind-the-eyes passivity of Keanu Reeves as an equally reluctant hero in the Matrix movies.

Jonathan Mostow manages the action with panache, though his style is necessarily indebted to James Cameron's in the first two Terminators. Sensibly, he imitates the best Jackie Chan movies by adding laughs, keeping the action fast and balletic and leaving the really gruesome bits to our imagination.

Mostow has a decent rack record as a director. Breakdown, starring Kurt Russell, was one of the most suspenseful thrillers of the last ten years, and his submarine drama U-571 generated tension as well, though it was let down by its generic script and inauthentic view of history. T3 is his most impressive film yet.

He is well served by the three credited writers John Brancato, Michael Ferris and Tedi Sarafian. They pull off quite a few ingenious twists, including the ending. This manages the difficult trick of being satisfying in its own right and laying the foundation for a fourth and very final Terminator film - to which I am looking forward already.

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