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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
2003 - R - 110 Mins.
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Producer: Mario Kassar, Andrew G. Vajna, Hal Lieberman, Joel B. Michaels and Colin Wilson
Written By: John Brancato and Michael Ferris
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken and David Andrews
Review by: Bill King
   
The long-awaited and highly anticipated "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" is at once a thrilling action film and, barring a fourth entry, a fitting finale. Rarely have I seen a film so poignant. Though it starts out routine and stays that way almost the entire time, there are moments where the tension is so high the film becomes almost unbearable.

Sarah Connor is gone now, and John Connor (Nick Stahl) is on his own. He spends his days going from one job to the next, drifting from location to location. He has no ID, no home, no friends. He fears that the accomplishments in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" may not have saved the future. With the possibility of other cyborgs coming back, John's anonymity is the best way for him to disappear from society. His opening narration, describing his thoughts and fears, provides a glimpse into his sad life. As he says early in the film, the weight of the world is on his shoulders.

John's disappearance frustrates the machines of the future. With no way to track his whereabouts, they send the latest model, the T-X (Kristanna Loken), back in time to kill off John's future lieutenants. Luckily, the human resistance sends back help, in the form of the outdated T-800, model 101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Before walking into the movie, I wondered why the resistance would send back this older version of the terminator. Why not send another T-X, or even the T-1000? Fear not, because the movie addresses that small problem.

After an injury, John makes his way to an animal hospital to get some medication. Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), a veterinarian, discovers him. We learn that they were classmates in middle school, before John disappeared. The T-X and T-800 show up, but we quickly realize just how out of date the T-800 is. The T-X has the same morphing abilities as the T-1000, but she also has a large arsenal of weapons built into her arm. She's also stronger, faster and has the ability to control other machines.

John already knows his future role as the leader of the resistance, but what we didn't know is that Kate Brewster is also important. She is a future lieutenant under Connor, and his future wife. She takes this news rather well. Meanwhile, more of the plot's layers unfold. Kate's father, Air Force Lt. General Robert Brewster (David Andrews), is in charge of the Skynet project, which will link all of the U.S. military's computers into one entity, an entity that, unbeknownst to Robert Brewster, will become self aware and threaten the world with annihilation. John, Kate and the T-800 set out to stop the activation of Skynet, with the T-X hot on their heels.

The movie is wall-to-wall with action, but it is all well done. A chase scene early on, involving a crane, a truck and remote driven police cars, is a terrific display of editing and pacing. It's a thrilling scene, though it doesn't have the same polish as the motorcycle chase scene in "Terminator 2." There is also a spectacular fight scene between the T-800 and the T-X that has the two tossing each other around in a restroom.

Though much of the film resembles a slick action film, my favorite part is actually a quiet scene towards the end. John and Kate stumble upon a terrible secret, and John's response to someone calling for help says everything that needs to be said. It is such an astonishing turn of events for the movie to take that the tension at this moment is elevated to a very high degree.

There are a few small problems to be found, mainly in the way the T-X is directed. Jonathan Mostow, taking over for James Cameron, has the T-X walking towards her cornered targets as if she was Michael Myers. She's not as menacing as Robert Patrick's T-1000. Don't get me wrong. She's a formidable opponent, one that's extremely tough to keep down, but Robert Patrick was so good in T2 that his performance is simply one that's difficult to top.

Nick Stahl is a suitable replacement for Edward Furlong, who didn't reprise his role as John Connor due to personal problems he was having at the time. Stahl has much of the conviction and sense of urgency that Furlong possessed. He carries the movie well, and does an exceptional job during the movie's more emotional moments, such as the scene in which he visits his mother's grave. Claire Danes' role is trickier, because she has to give us the impression that she's not a weak female character being dragged around. She pulls it off quite well, and Kate Brewster turns out to be a strong character.

Then there is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is now in his 50s. Despite the many years that have passed since "T2," he effortlessly slips into the role that turned him into one of the biggest action stars in movie history. He's as good as ever. He possesses the same expressionless face and unintentional stabs at humor that he used in his previous incarnations of the Terminator.

"Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" is a worthy entry into this series. The door is left open for another sequel, but the open door also gives the movie additional emotional depth. We know the destinies of John and Kate, and the movie trusts the audience enough to figure out what must happen next. If this is the last entry, then the series went off on a high note.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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