Strip Predator down to its core and you’ll find a simple but effective story. A team of the best military operatives on Earth are picked off, one by one, by an unseen alien enemy in the jungles of Central America. It’s hunter versus hunted, humans versus aliens, us versus them, storytelling at its most primitive. The apparent lack of depth in the characters is not a hindrance at all. You could pit any human being against a seemingly unstoppable alien menace and we will almost always cheer for our own, regardless of how little we know or care about them.
The minimal cast admirably juggle nail-biting tension and intense action. The lack of female actors has been a criticism from many, but Elpidia Carillo’s Anna is arguably the deepest character in the film. After her first confrontation with the alien, you can see the fight-or-flight mentality gradually take hold, transforming her from a helpless victim to a staunch survivalist. The sheer size of Arnold Schwarzenegger and his brothers in arms really adds to the idea that these are the best of the best, but when Kevin Peter Hall finally appears as the Predator, the payoff is immense. Hall towers above all with an eerie physical performance, worthy of Stan Winston’s incredible creation.
Director John McTiernan utilises every trick in the book to crank up the tension throughout. From deliberately keeping the alien off-screen until absolutely necessary, to effective use of first person perspectives, McTiernan expertly builds on the taut atmosphere. An unnerving score by Alan Silvestri is yet another tool for the director to shred nerves with.
Predator is a taut Sci Fi thriller, expertly crafted by action maestro John McTiernan, all the while accentuating the strengths of its overly macho cast.