Terminator: Dark Fate (4 stars)

Terminator: Dark Fate

The sixth instalment in the sci-fi franchise returns Linda Hamilton to the fold with winning results

After years of muddled sequels and 'I'll be back' trailer moments, the Terminator saga finally gets a reset to reckon with. With series creator James Cameron (sharing 'story by' and producer roles) and former lead Linda Hamilton back on board, Dark Fate restores heart, horror, focus and ferocity to the series, while grounding fresh developments in the crucial stuff of likeable characters facing a nightmare.

If previous sequels over-relied on Arnold Schwarzenegger's comebacks, director Tim Miller (Deadpool) knows Hamilton's Sarah Connor is his trump card. A flashback to the intensity of her apocalyptic prophecies in Terminator 2 helps wallop Terminators 3 to 5 from memory. One shock twist and a jump to present-day Mexico City later, an aged Sarah forms fractious ties with 'augmented' human future soldier Grace (Tully's Mackenzie Davis) to protect Dani (Natalia Reyes from Colombian triumph Birds of Passage), a young woman who goes to work one morning to find a cyborg from 2042 (a chillingly calm Gabriel Luna) wants her dead.

As the reasons why cut between time-frames, Miller keeps the film's backbone sturdy by maintaining the simplicity of Cameron's two Terminator originals. Dark Fate powers up as a bracingly full-pelt chase movie, with the clash of the normal and nightmarish channelled into some thrillingly aggressive action. Hamilton and an electric Davis bring steel to the dust-ups and intra-character tensions; meanwhile, Reyes anchors our perspective winningly.

If the reasons behind Schwarzenegger's return raise more questions than they answer, at least he's deployed in a manner that gives him his due (and some good gags about drapes) without capsizing the female focus. Elsewhere, topical backdrops – cyber warfare, the US-Mexico border – are used to balance out the CG sizzle of tentacular terminators and terminators who can split into two. Miller strains too hard to impress with his multi-stacked climactic set-pieces, but not before he's hammered a dented franchise back into brash, action-fit shape.

General release from Wed 23 Oct.

Terminator: Dark Fate

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 2h 8min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Tim Miller
  • Cast: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Gabriel Luna, Natalia Reyes, Diego Boneta
  • UK release: 31 October 2019

In present-day Mexico City, Sarah Connor (Hamilton) forms fractious ties with augmented future soldier Grace (Davis) to protect Dani (Reyes) from a cyborg (Luna). Miller knows Hamilton is his trump card, and this female-focus reset brings heart, horror, focus and ferocity back to the series. Refreshing..