This month we review a selection of movies from Empire’s 100 Greatest Movies list. Today is Number 87: Predator.
Considering Predator is a movie about an alien hunting soldiers in a jungle, it is surprisingly well written. Predator takes it’s time. It doesn’t feel the need to throw action at the screen immediately or even introduce the titular enemy until much further in the film. Predator is an example of old fashioned movie-making. It has key characters, a specific location and a story to tell and it isn’t going to rush any of it.
The characters are the strongest part of the movie. There is a clear military team, all beefed-up classic action archetypes of the 80s, but they all have distinct characters. This isn’t a team of generic, one-name men who will be dispatched easy. From Richard Chaves as tracker Poncho, through to Mac and Blain, played by Sonny Landham and Jesse Ventura respectively, down to Carl Weathers, whose CIA agent Dillon has a shady story all to himself. These are fleshed-out, well written characters who get enough key lines and scenes each that you get a great idea of who they are.
This is the 80s though and if you want proper action done well, there was only one man you could turn to. Arnold Schwarzenegger delivers some of his best work here. He is a noble leader to a rag-tag military team and is hugely believable as Commander Dutch. This is still classic Arnie though, so he gets his one-liners, great action sequences and explosive moments.
In fact, the action in Predator is brilliant. One sequence in a militia camp would often be reserved for the finale of the movie but here it is used in the first act, showcasing how good these men really are, what their talents consist of and why they are a formidable team to take down. All this is of course to highlight the superior ability of Predator.
The Predator itself is a well-crafted character in his own right. He has a simple and pure aim: To kill. For the 80s, the special effects used to bring the character to life are impressive. We get a great infra-red view which makes the targets feel more vulnerable, as well as a believable invisibility which although could easily be bettered today, doesn’t jar too much in a film which could have been in danger of dating itself.
It is when Predator begins to hunt the team that the film almost shifts in tone halfway through. Once the team have achieved their mission and are making their way through the jungle to their distant, dangerous rendezvous point, it soon becomes more akin to a horror. There is tracking, stalking, jump-scares and characters being dispatched in full, bloody gore. The film does a great job of building this almighty threat which will need the best to take him down.
Which is why the last act is so perfect. Once again, the movie switches tone and it becomes man vs alien. When you have a character actor as charismatic as Arnie, it is a bold move to take away his dialogue but the final act is almost done entirely in silence. It is also a slow-burn finale. We watch as Arnie meticulously executes his final plan to take down the Predator and then when the two do finally clash, it is well-worth the build-up that preceded it.
Overall, Predator is a well-regarded classic of the 80s and rightfully so. It is a well-written, masterfully executed action movie with elements of science-fiction and horror. Arnie is never-better as Dutch but is ably supported by a memorable cast who are only outshone by the titular alien.
Rating – 5!
(1 – AWFUL, 2 – AVERAGE, 3 – GOOD, 4 – GREAT, 5! – MUST SEE)
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