Filmsite Movie Review
The Terminator (1984)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Sarah and Reese Apprehended by Police and Questioned:

As Reese started the vehicle, the cruiser driven by the Terminator quietly pulled up near them, and the android fired at their back window. A second harrowing pursuit sequence commenced on downtown streets as the Terminator continued to shoot at them with his Uzi during their running gun battle. After the Terminator's car violently crashed at the end of a street, Reese's car was cornered and the two were apprehended and taken into custody by police, but the Terminator was able to slip away without a trace before being apprehended.

In Lt. Traxler's office, it was confirmed to Sarah that her roommate and boyfriend had been brutally murdered. If she was able, she was asked to relate to criminal psychologist Dr. Silberman (Earl Boen) everything that Reese had told her. Before the interrogation, she asked: "Is Reese crazy?"

Seated at a table with his wrists handcuffed behind his back, while other officers watched through a one-way mirror (and the interviews were videotaped), the incredulous Silberman listened as Reese explained how he was a soldier fighting for the 132nd under Commander Perry, from the year 2021 to 2027. And for the next two years from 2027-2029, he was assigned to recon and security, and fought under John Connor against the enemy -- described as "a computer defense system built for SAC-NORAD by Cyberdyne Systems."

A very grave Silberman restated Reese's story and the film's premise - that the computer thought it could win by killing Connor's mother - Sarah - in the past:

And this computer, thinks it can win by killing the mother of its enemy. Killing him, in effect, before he's even conceived? A sort of retroactive abortion?

And then Silberman asked an obvious question: "Why didn't the computer just kill Connor then? Why this elaborate scheme with the Terminator?" Reese explained how there was no other alternative. The computer's defense grid had been smashed by the winning Resistance forces: "We'd won. Taking out Connor then would make no difference. Skynet had to wipe out his entire existence." The Terminator and then Reese were the last two to be transported back in time by a "time displacement machine" that had been captured in the lab complex by the Resistance and afterwards destroyed. Therefore, Reese stated that he had absolutely no way to return to the future:

Nobody goes home. Nobody else comes through. It's just him and me.

Later in Lt. Traxler's office that night, as they watched the video record of the interviews on a monitor, they listened as Silberman asked: "Why didn't you bring any weapons, something more advanced? Don't you have ray guns?...Show me a piece of future technology." Reese answered that it was impossible to bring anything man-made during time travel: "You go naked. Something about the field generated by a living organism. Nothing dead will go." Reese became exasperated by Silberman's doubts and turned hostile: "I didn't build the f--king thing!", but then further elucidated why the metal cyborg was able to time-displace - he was "surrounded by living tissue."

Silberman regarded Reese's complete story as the paranoid, insane delusions of a psychopath who didn't need any tangible proof to validate his story. The interview concluded with Reese explaining why the other two Sarah Connors were eliminated: "Most of the records were lost in the war. Skynet knew almost nothing about Connor's mother. Her full name, where she lived. They just knew the city. The Terminator was just being systematic." Reese stated he was finished answering questions, because sooner or later, he claimed as he faced the camera with haunting words about how the Terminator would hunt down Sarah and kill her:

That's what he does! That's all he does! You can't stop him! He'll wade through you, reach down her throat and pull her f--king heart out!

Silberman summarized his findings: "In technical terminology, he's a loon." Lt. Traxler also explained away the Terminator's survival by claiming that he was wearing a bullet-proof body-armor vest. Detective Vukovich added that the Terminator was probably on drugs (PCP) and must have broken every bone in his hand when he punched through the windshield at Sarah.

Sarah was awaiting the arrival of her mother in about an hour from Big Bear (a lengthy two-hour drive from the mountainous area in the San Bernardino National Forest northeast of downtown Los Angeles).

The Terminator's Two Self-Surgeries:

Meanwhile - during Reese's thorough interrogation, the Terminator readied himself in a dingy and grimy hotel room (entered through a fire escape window) to perform two gruesome operations or surgeries - the result of the crash of his stolen police vehicle and a major shot-gun blast to his arm. His eyebrows were singed off, he was filled with multiple bullet holes, and his left eye had embedded shards of glass. He pulled up his right sleeve to reveal a severely-damaged forearm. He picked up an exacto-knife and cut deeply into his outer flesh and skin - creating a major opening in his arm. With other small tools, he began to repair the mechanical, hydraulic levers and cables that functioned inside his arm and maneuvered his fingers. Then, he wrapped up the wounds and open areas with white bandages.

He also plunged the exacto-knife into his lacerated left eye and cut out his entire outer eyeball, eyelid and the surrounding area. After wiping the open wound with a rag, he stared into a mirror, revealing the internal, faintly red-glowing lens mechanism in the metal socket that was powered by servos to function as a focusing cornea. [Note: The scene vaguely referenced Luis Bunuel's eye-cutting sequence in the 16 minute surrealistic short Un Chien Andalou (1929).] The Terminator was now forced to wear wrap-around GARGOYLE sunglasses to hide the gaping hole. He grabbed his fire-power weapons from under the flipped bed mattress and exited through the window to the fire escape and the street below.

The Terminator's Assault on the Police Station - The Fugitives Escape:

Silberman left the inner offices and approached the secured, bullet-proof area in the outer secured lobby or foyer area of the heavily guarded CENTRAL DIVISION of the LA police department (where Sarah and Reese were being held). The night desk-sergeant Wright (Bruce M. Kerner) pushed a security button to allow his exit. As he was about to leave through the front door, Silberman paused to look down and attend to his beeping pager, and failed to notice the Terminator (wearing sunglasses and almost unrecognizable) enter and pass by him.

When the Terminator asserted "I'm a friend of Sarah Connor" to the desk sergeant, he was denied access to see her and told he had to wait because she was busy making a statement. The Terminator briefly scanned the lighted rooms down the hallway, the booth, the walls and the ceiling, and then casually uttered three famous words that became a classic quote:

I'll be back.

Then suddenly, the desk clerk looked up and was startled to see the Terminator ramming the building with a car by driving through the entrance door and windows and smashing into the booth - the collision crushed the desk sergeant. During his assault and total massacre of the facility's dozens of officers with automatic weapons in each hand spraying his surroundings, the Terminator's infra-red POV vision was displayed with target cross-hairs - as he slaughtered anyone in his path. He also created a power surge that affected the entire building's electrical system, causing the lighting units to explode. Emergency lighting activated. Both Lt. Traxler and Detective Vukovich were mortally wounded.

[Note: In the sequel, it was stated that 17 police officers were killed that evening - "These were taken by a video surveillance camera at the West Highland Police Station in 1984. He killed 17 police officers that night."]

Reese escaped from custody, loudly called out Sarah's name before locating her crouching in an office, and the two fugitives fled from the besieged police station, that was now on fire, in a stolen AMC Gremlin. A massive manhunt was initiated - at 4:36 am, the TV news station KFLB reported on "the largest single law enforcement mobilization in California history is currently underway. Police in five southern counties are engaged in a massive manhunt for an unident..."

Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor - Falling in Love:

When they ran out of gas, they ditched the car by pushing it off the side of the road, and then they hid out under a road-bridge overpass. Sarah learned Reese's first name of Kyle, and asked about his experience of time travel - she learned it involved: "White light. Pain. It's like being born, maybe." He discovered he had incurred a mild bullet wound in his right arm, and as she treated him and dressed the injury (with supplies from the abandoned car's first aid kit), she also asked about her future son - John Connor.

She learned that he was strong and heroic ("You trust him. He's got a strength") -- Kyle vowed: "I'd die for John Connor." Sarah stated that now - she would know what to name her unborn child, but then joked about the father -- "Don't suppose you know who the father is, so I won't tell him to get lost when I meet him." Reese said that the father "dies before the war" - and explained how he had volunteered to be sent back:

It was a chance to meet the legend - Sarah Connor. Taught her son to fight, organize, prepare, from when he was a kid. When you were in hiding before the war...

She scoffed - becoming crazed by the paradox of what they were talking about: "You're talking about things I haven't done yet in the past tense. It's driving me crazy." And she was doubtful about her future role as a legendary figure:

Are you sure you have the right person?... Oh, come on! Do I look like the mother of the future? I mean, am I tough, organized? I can't even balance my checkbook! Look, Reese, I didn't ask for this honor and I don't WANT IT, ANY OF IT!

Kyle delivered a personal message (that he had memorized) to her from her son:

Thank you, Sarah, for your courage through the dark years. I can't help you with what you must soon face except to say that the future is not set. You must be stronger than you imagine you can be. You must survive or I will never exist. That's all.

As he told her more about the future, Sarah lapsed into sleep and had a "pretty terrifying" nightmarish vision of a future firefight against the H-Ks and aerial patrol craft, involving Reese and other Resistance fighters, who were forced to fight at night in the devastated landscape.

(When Reese returned from a nocturnal patrol to a fortified, underground human sanctuary (a converted parking structure), he noticed dirty and starving children (some were watching a burned out TV), and wailing and moaning women. The rebels were forced to scavenge for rats. After he removed his prized, ragged-edged and soiled Polaroid picture of Sarah Connor from his pocket, a predatory Future Terminator (Franco Columbu), the newest and "worst" form of infiltrators, had broken into their stronghold and opened fire with a plasma rifle - there was a tremendous massacre of scores of innocent civilians (women and children). Hit by the gunfire and on the ground, Reese's picture of Sarah burned and melted in flames next to him as he looked up at the glowing red eyes of the Terminator.)

The Terminator's Relentless Pursuit:

Through a dissolve, as Sarah awakened from her horrifying dream the next morning, the Terminator (obviously in a deteriorating condition) was seated in his grimy hotel room, leafing through her absconded address book (earlier acquired in Sarah's apartment), as a paunchy, unshaven disheveled Cleaning Man (Norman Friedman) with a cigar and gray tank-top knocked on the door and asked: "Hey, buddy, you got a dead cat in there or what?" The Terminator's visual display offered a choice of responses - he used the flashing one to answer - a very humorous line:


He also zeroed in on the address and phone number of Sarah's mother at her Big Bear mountain cabin - 555-9861, 181 Spruce Lane.

Sarah and Reese hitchhiked a ride in a large truck and were dropped off in front of the economy-styled Tiki Motel (actually located in Huntington Park, CA located in a SE direction from downtown LA), where they rented a room (with kitchenette). While Reese went to buy supplies, Sarah unwisely phoned her mother at Big Bear (Wasn't she driving and on her way to the police station?) - unwittingly identifying her phone number and location (408-555-1439 in Room 9) to the Terminator, who was simulating the voice of her now-murdered mother. The Terminator dialed the motel phone number and asked for the address.

Reese returned not with food supplies, but with ingredients to make a stockpile of homemade 'plastique' pipe bombs ("nitroglycerin basically") -- Karo corn syrup, moth balls, paper towels, flares, ammonia, duct tape, and a Pyrex container. They assembled the bomb materials in seven ten-inch lengths of plumber's pipe with threaded sealed ends.

She was despondent, worrying that the deadly pursuit would never end: "He'll find us, won't he?...It'll never be over, will it? Look at me. I'm shaking. Some legend, huh?" She asked if Reese was "disappointed" in her, and he replied that he wasn't. He described the women in his time as "good fighters" - but there was no one "special" and he had never had someone. She commiserated with him: "So much pain," but he was able to ignore it: "Pain can be controlled. You just disconnect it."

He mentioned an old faded and torn picture of her that John Connor had given him, and that he had come across time for her. He boldly asserted his love for her:

John Connor gave me a picture of you once. I didn't know why at the time. It was very old - torn, faded. You were young like you are now. You seemed just a little sad. I used to always wonder what you were thinking at that moment. I memorized every line, every curve. I came across time for you, Sarah. I love you. I always have.

Although he realized he had been forward and possibly foolish ("I shouldn't have said that"), she kissed him, and they made passionate love together -- their conceived child would become humanity's future savior, John Connor.

The Final Confrontation with The Terminator:

The two were alerted by a barking German Shepherd dog chained at the front of the motel complex (seen in the android's infra-red vision), and escaped before the Terminator (who had traced them to the motel) kicked down Room 9's door and sprayed the room with bullets. They stole a large pickup truck from another customer (Greg Robbins), rammed the Terminator at the room's door, and then backed out of the parking lot/driveway and fled, with the Terminator chasing after them on a motorcycle - firing one-handed. Sarah took over driving duties as Reese hurled the pipe-bomb explosives (with lit fuses) at the android behind them, but they were ineffective.

When Reese was seriously-wounded in the chest by a gunshot, Sarah hit the brakes, then abruptly swerved the truck and violently rammed into the Terminator's cycle and the android - both skidded along the pavement. Although their own truck had flipped and overturned, they watched in amazement when the Terminator, who was lying in the middle of the traffic lanes and struggling to his feet, was suddenly run over by a massive JG Oil company tanker-truck. As the horrified driver (Wayne Stone) ground the heavy truck's brakes to a halt, the Terminator clung to the undercarriage and emerged when the man exited the cab to inspect the carnage. The android knocked the man to the pavement, then limped to the front of the truck, ordered the tanker's terrified partner (David Michels) to "Get out" (the Terminator's last line of dialogue!) and commandered the vehicle (his infra-red X-ray vision drew a schematic of the transmission). His outer layer of skin had been ripped off part of his face and forehead, and his left eye glowed red.

Sarah dragged the wounded Reese to safety from the upside-down truck cab before the ruined and crashed vehicle was rammed by the Terminator. They ran on foot down the highway - pursued by the massive truck gaining speed. While the Terminator drove straight toward his main target - Sarah - to run her down, Reese inserted one of his remaining pipe bombs into a tank cylinder on the side of the truck and then drove into a dumpster. Sarah continued to outpace the truck down a sidewalk, and dodged around a parked car. The fuse on the bomb reached the explosive, and the entire truck was blown up in a massive fireball, creating a fiery inferno. After ducking around the exterior of a building, Sarah glanced back and watched as the exterior, synthetic skin of the T-800 Terminator was burned away after he extricated himself from the cab and collapsed to the ground in a charred, motionless mass. She and Reese reunited in the midst of the flames and congratulated each other: "We did it, Kyle. We got it."

However, Kyle turned to gaze at the unstoppable android's gleaming metal/chrome exo-skeletal frame (with glowing red eyes) that rose up from the fiery debris and gazed directly back.

[Note: The scene paid homage to Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) - the scene of the False Maria's robotic fleshy likeness burning at the stake, and revealing the structural skeleton beneath.]

Kyle and Sarah staggered in disbelief to a nearby building, broke the glass in a door and entered, as the skeletal T-800 (a special-effects small-scale puppet) followed after them, dragging one of his malfunctioning legs. Inside the automated factory, Reese and Sarah fled down a corridor and pulled a heavy metal fire-door shut and secured it - just as the Terminator almost caught up to them. They found themselves in a large room filled with giant GMF robotic, hydraulic-powered machines. Reese activated the machines by throwing the switches on a large control panel, in order to throw off the Terminator and cover their tracks so they couldn't be heard and followed. When Reese was about to give up, Sarah yelled at him and dragged him with her, yelling out: "On your feet, soldier!" as the Terminator broke through the fire-door and scanned for their presence. They crawled and scrambled through the maze of machinery during a tense chase.

As they backed up a metal staircase leading to a catwalk, Reese defended Sarah behind him after yelling and pushing at her to "Run!" He taunted the advancing metallic android ("Come on, motherf--ker!") and then valiantly and vainly swung multiple times at the robot with a round steel bar. [Note: It was reportedly the film's single most challenging technical sequence.] But he was back-handed with the robot's right hand and further hurt. He sacrificed himself with a last bit of strength when he placed another homemade pipe-bomb into the Terminator's open rib-cage or torso, successfully blowing its lower half away. He did not survive the blast - he was the last victim (the 27th) of the Terminator's rampage.

Sarah's left thigh was severely-injured by sharp flying debris and metal shrapnel from the blast, and she grimaced as she pulled it out of her leg. She crawled over to Reese's bloodied and unmoving body. Unbelievably, the surviving upper-half of the relentless android (head and arms with the battered torso trailing wires and metal pieces) continued to crawl after her. She escaped death by strangulation from the outstretched arm and hand of the android, by luring it underneath a massive hydraulic press and crushing it. As she pressed a red START button on a control box to initiate the process of stamping out the robot, she yelled out:

You're terminated, f--ker!

Amidst lightning sparks, the glowing red eyes of the Terminator dimmed and extinguished as it was flattened. Shortly afterwards, Sarah was placed on an ambulance stretcher, and Reese was zipped into a body bag.


In the film's epilogue, a 6-months pregnant Sarah was tape-recording her 7th tape - her thoughts on November 10, 1984, as she drove in an open red Jeep Renegade through a Mexican desert. A gleaming, phallic-like silver revolver protectively rested in her lap next to her swollen belly - to defend against any threats to her unborn child. She was planning on later presenting her collection of recorded tapes to her unborn son, John Connor, fathered by Kyle ("What's most difficult for me is trying to decide what to tell you and what not to"). Pulling off the road at a Pemex gas station where gas was 40.3 a litro, shed was aided by a Spanish phrase book to order gas from the attendant (Tony Mirelez). As she waited, she continued her recorded narration - and spoke about her time with Kyle and the love she had for him during their brief time together:

Should I tell you about your father? Boy, that's a tough one. Will it affect your decision to send him here knowing that he is your father? If you don't send Kyle, you can never be. God, a person could go crazy thinking about this. I suppose I will tell you. I owe him that. Maybe it'll help if you know that in the few hours that we had together, we loved a lifetime's worth.

She was startled by the click of a Polaroid picture being taken of her by a young Mexican boy (Anthony Trujillo) -- it was the same exact picture given by Connor to Kyle Reese that he had carried with him and fallen in love with. The circularity of the film's paradox seemed complete. The gas station attendant translated that the boy was hustling her for five American dollars in exchange for the picture, and she offered him four. The boy also shouted about the weather as the wind whipped up dust and signaled an impending storm. The attendant translated the Mexican phrase:

He said there's a storm coming in.

Before driving off into the distance toward some mountains, Sarah replied - with the film's final line of dialogue: "I know."

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