In post-apocalyptic 2018, John Connor (Christian Bale) is the man fated to lead the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. But the future that Connor was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet's operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The reader will excuse a bit of 'I told you so' - especially as it's upbeat, not sneering: here is what I wrote in April 2004 in my review of Gettin' Square: "Sam Worthington makes a strong and satisfying leading man with great presence. Decency and a casual sexiness oozes out of him, and this role gives him the key to Hollywood, if he wants it." Here we are five years later (less if you take off a couple of years for casting and production) with Sam playing a lead role opposite Christian Bale in a Hollywood movie - and they don't come much bigger than Terminator Salvation. The Terminator franchise is surely the Schwarzenegger of sci-fi action franchises.
Directed by McG (I used to think that was the Melbourne Cricket Ground), T4 is a post apocalyptic epic with a beating heart: indeed, Sam Worthington's beating heart, which plays such a crucial role in the story. But I won't go into that; see it, it's worthington the ticket price, and not only for Sam's terrific performance, but for Bale's and everyone else's and for a story that also has the ethos of the human heart at its heart, as it were. What the Terminator franchise has cleverly, wisely even, adopted, is the universal glue of mankind against an external threat, be it alien/s or machines. The non-human threat is a uniting force that targets our subconscious survival instinct. No wonder it's called Salvation.
Blasting across the screen in a volcano of action and doom, Terminator Salvation promises a battle for our souls from the start. Like all great sci-fi concepts, this one is grounded in human dimensions: loyalty and betrayal, love and hate, fear and revenge, guilt and redemption. But it all happens in a seamless flow of action and reaction, of humans behaving decently and badly. The machines? Well, they've been designed to look like metal skeletons, a symbolic shorthand for the dead, the soulless, the heartless, the potentially evil, living on the other side. All of that is rendered in a fleeting moment as we see the skeletal forms with glowing red eyes ... that glow with the embers of hell.
But for all the young males in the audience, this will be absorbed as a by product of a deadly battle between the new superpower, the authorities, and the bright young things of the resistance, who want peace and love and the world we know. You can't get more romantic than that.
Review by Louise Keller:
The battle between men and machines continues in this spectacular and gritty fourth film in the Terminator franchise that quantifies the power of the human heart in all its forms. Crammed with massive action pieces, awesome visual effects and a dense plot that cleverly incorporates echoes from the previous films, director McG injects passion and energy into the film and it pays off. It also pays off for our own Sam Worthington, whose Hollywood career is assured, after this towering leading man role that is anything but predictable. Worthington's features are not dissimilar to those of enigmatic Christian Bale, a great John Connor and one worthy to carry the baton, but the film belongs to Worthington.
Everyone deserves a second chance, we hear, as the fight begins for the future, the past and the present. Although most of the story takes place nine years from now (in the year 2018), it begins 15 years earlier, when Worthington's Marcus Wright is being given the kiss of death by way of lethal injection for crimes past. This is our first introduction to Helena Bonham Carter's pale, terminally ill Dr Serena Kogan. But this is not the last time we see the scene stealing Bonham Carter. The apocalyptic production design is convincing, Danny Elfman's full throttle score keeps us on the edge and those trademark percussive beats make the hair on the back of our neck stand tall. Multi-camera set ups bring us the action from all angles and as for the machines, they come in all shapes and sizes - gigantic humanoid, compact bike-like and writhing like a deadly snake. We are not given a chance to miss Arnie, either: when a young version of the original Terminator appears through the mist, it feels eerily like déjà vu.
Lines like 'Come with me if you want to live' and 'I'll be back' are integrated into the script and there's reference to that storm that Sarah Connor talks about in previous films. Anton Yelchin is a fine choice for the all important role of Kyle Reese, who we know plans to come across time for Sarah. Moon Bloodgood looks as good as her name, but Bryce Dallas Howard is a curious choice as John's pregnant wife Kate. There's action throughout this pulsating, thrilling story about heroes and villains, even when it is not always easy to decipher which is which. The themes are universal - loyalty, betrayal and redemption. One thing is sure, irrespective of the sophistication and strength of the seemingly indestructible machines, there is nothing to rival the human heart. Nor is the continuation of the franchise at risk, as it promises to deliver more.
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TERMINATOR SALVATION (M)
CAST: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Jane Alexander, Helena Bonham Carter, Jadagrace, Linda Hamilton (voice)
PRODUCER: Derek Anderson, Moritz Borman, Victor Kubicek, Jeffrey Silver
SCRIPT: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Shane Hurlbut
EDITOR: Conrad Buff IV
MUSIC: Danny Elfman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Martin Laing
OTHER: Charlie Gibson, VFX Supervisor
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 4, 2009