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30 Years Later: Terminator 2: Judgement Day

17 August 21 words: George White

Making just over $520m at the global box office, this isn't James Cameron's biggest film - but it may well be his best... 

DirectorJames Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong
Running time: 137 minutes

Nobody quite does a blockbuster like James Cameron, do they? The Canadian has directed two of the three highest-grossing movies of all time, and his extensive filmography has permeated popular culture with lines like “Draw me like one of your French girls” and “Get away from her, you bitch!” Yet arguably the pinnacle of Cameron’s illustrious career came back in 1991, with the release of the phenomenal Terminator 2: Judgement Day – also known as the greatest action movie of all time. That’s right, it’s been said. 

This iconic flick follows Arnold Schwarzenegger’s killer cyborg who, experiencing a role reversal from The Terminator, is tasked with protecting a young John Connor (Edward Furlong) from the threat of the upgraded, shapeshifting T-1000 (portrayed with unnerving levels of menace by Robert Patrick). Meanwhile, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the majorly underused protagonist of the original 1984 film, wrestles with her trauma from the events of seven years prior - and tries to wrestle her way out of a psychiatric ward to protect her child. 

If this sounds like the recipe for a thrillingly high-octane couple of hours, that’s because it very much is. From the very first scene, as the devastating destruction of a future overrun by robots is spelled out for the audience, the stakes are sky(net) high – as is the quality of the action. 

Throughout the film’s (admittedly pretty hefty) runtime, there are countless memorable fight scenes, chase scenes and oh-my-god-that-was-incredible scenes. One particular sequence, in which Arnie’s motorbike-riding T-800 escorts John Connor to safety while being hunted down by a psychotic cyborg in a lorry, provides five full minutes of relentlessly intense action – ending with the type of colossal explosion James Bay would be proud of, and a Schwarzenegger shotgun flip that makes even Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name look uncool. 

Yet T2’s most powerful bout of violence is much more grounded, as Sarah Connor battles her way out of captivity with a marvellous mix of stealth, intelligence and outright brutality. Hamilton is utterly phenomenal every time she graces the screen, but this particular sequence demonstrates her character’s impressive development and increased agency better than any other – and every single second is excellently choreographed and remarkably captured by Cameron and co.

Schwarzenegger’s deadpan delivery helps to make this one of the most quotable releases in movie history

The fact Sarah Connor was recently named as one of the greatest characters in movie history by Empire magazine (albeit ranking criminally low, at 58) is testament to Hamilton’s steely and no-nonsense yet layered and vulnerable approach to the hero here, with the Golden Globe nominee taking a character who was little more than a damsel-in-distress on her first outing and turning her into a proper action star. Schwarzenegger may have been front-and-centre on the promotional material, he may have had the most iconic lines, and he is undoubtedly in incredibly fine form too, but this is very much Hamilton’s show – and she steals it with magnificent ease.

Outside of the drama and the bloodshed, though, this is a joyously amusing blockbuster – with the film providing far more laughs than your average modern comedy. The unlikely sibling-esque relationship that develops between John and his guardian angel is delightful, with Schwarzenegger’s deadpan delivery helping to make this one of the most quotable releases in movie history. At times, this feels as much like an unlikely buddy cop caper as it does a big-budget action flick, and it’s all the better for it. 

Even 30 years later, very few films hold a flame to Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Packed with pulse-racing action, thoroughly entertaining dialogue and stellar performances from Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, this is undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s finest. Fancy a thoroughly enjoyable time in front of your screen? No problemo – James Cameron has got you covered.

Did you know? Robert Patrick trained in a rigorous running regimen while breathing only through his nose, in order to be able to appear to run at high speeds without showing fatigue on film. He had trained so hard that he was able to catch up with Edward Furlong on his dirtbike with great ease, so he had to slow down considerably.

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