Friday, June 5, 2015

Film Review: Predator (1987)

Predator (Review)
United States/1987
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...blends the best of science-fiction, action, and horror to create an extremely entertaining and suspenseful film."

Special Forces leader Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) leads his team into Central America in a hostage rescue mission, unwitting of an invisible danger lurking in the trees...

Predator follows Major Dutch, Agent Dillon (Carl Weathers), and the rest of the team as they execute their mission. Not before long, Dutch realizes the mission is deeper than he thought and he's been played a fool by Dillon and the CIA. Regardless, Dutch and Dillon bumps heads and agree to escape the jungle. Before they can reach their extraction point, the group find themselves the target of an inexplicable creature — invisible, agile, dangerous, and elusive —  not human, but not animal, either. The team members start getting picked off as the crew rush to extraction. The film leads to an epic climax — the hunter becomes the hunted, a game of deadly cat-and-mouse, and an inspirational Schwarzenegger workout video. The ending is also great.

Predator doesn't have a deep plot. Actually, it's fairly thin. Fortunately, the film has plenty of characters, charm, and action. The characters aren't deep and complex, but they're vibrant and lively. They're memorable thanks to their distinct personalities and characteristics. I may not have delved deep into their psyche, but I certainly remember them. The charm comes from the characters and the dialogue. Sure, some of it is silly — there are quite a few one-liners in here — but it gives the film charm. At the same time, it offers some genuinely humorous moments. There are some moments that are a little too silly, though, like when the whole crew shoot hundreds of bullets at... Well, they don't actually know what they're shooting at yet.

Despite its thin plot and some overly silly moments, Predator shines as a very effective SciFi thriller/horror film. The use of restraint is excellent. It doesn't shove the predator down your throat. Instead, it keeps the titular antagonist a secret for most of the film with a few hints scattered throughout. This helps develop tension and atmosphere. It always feels tense and dangerous. This unnerving suspense lingers until the very end. It's even amplified through some gory visuals, like the skinned victims. When it hits the fan, you can expect plenty of blood and gore — a lot of it is impressive. The climax, in particular, had me at the edge of my seat — it was absolutely fantastic. It's amazing to watch a film vault over its narrative problems through strong and creative direction.

Arnold Schwarzenegger leads this cast of macho men. Schwarzenegger plays Schwarzenegger, which fortunately works in this case. Carl Weathers is also great. In body mass alone*, you probably won't find a more macho and lively cast in a SciFi film. The film is shot beautifully, I love the environment. There are some epic shots here. The music is also fantastic. There are some outdated special effects, but the practical special effects still hold up. Director John McTiernan crafts a suspenseful, horrifying, and exciting SciFi film. The pacing, the balance, the restraint... It's all excellent. It may be a little dated and silly at times, but it still holds up thanks to McTiernan's vision.

Overall, Predator is a classic. The film blends the best of science-fiction, action, and horror to create an extremely entertaining and suspenseful film. The narrative may be thin, but it makes up for it through its charming personality and chilling presentation. There are some outdated scenes, but the vast majority of the film still works — better than most contemporary films, in fact. This is one of my favorite suspense films. If you're looking for something exciting, this is for you.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

*An "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" reference — Mac and Dennis Break Up. One of my favorite episodes!

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