This new Terminator sequel is excellent, indeed the best since the first two movies, when James Cameron was supervising the franchise. Which shouldn't be a surprise, since Cameron is back on board, producing and writing an early draft of this film.
Dark Fate is immediately fresh and engaging, being set for a large part in Mexico and beginning in Mexico City (actually Madrid). It centres, as usual, on a killer robot sent from the future to assassinate a human being who is crucial to the fate of mankind.
In this case, the human is Dani (Natalia Reyes), a hardworking young woman who lives with her brother, her father and their dog Taco. Dani and her brother work on the assembly line at a car factory, where her brother has just been replaced by a robot ("The future," says a colleague) — a nice touch.
Meanwhile what appears to be a good terminator (like in the second film in the series) has been sent to protect Danni. I say "what appears" to be because Danni's protector is not a terminator at all, but actually a human being — like in the first film in the series.
But in this case the protector has been augmented with technology as a kind of cyborg — thereby splitting the difference between the first two movies.
The cyborg is Grace, a young woman who arrives from the future, as is traditional in the series, with no clothes on. Causing the local Mexican cops to talk approvingly about "naked women who fall from the sky."
Grace is superbly played by McKenzie Davis, a Canadian actress who looks eerily like Armie Hammer's sister and who was also excellent in the role of Mariette in Blade Runner 2049. Mariette was a replicant, so let's hope Davis isn't going to be typecast.
In no time at all Dani's father and brother are dead and she is on the run with Grace doing her best to save her from the relentlessly pursuing REV-9 robot (an impressive Gabriel Luna).
Pretty soon, though, Grace herself needs saving, and in the nick of time we're treated to Linda Hamilton turning up, reprising her role as Sarah Connor.
The story then progresses around the adventures of these three women on the run. This strongly female slant also adds to the movie's freshness and it's altogether admirable.
Perhaps this should also be no surprise.
Because James Cameron has a laudable track record in presenting strong female characters. After all, he's the one who built the first Alien sequel around Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and turned her into the first female action hero of blockbuster cinema.
With its Mexican setting, coyotes, a refugee train and interned migrants, Dark Fate develops like Sicario meets the Terminator. It has memorable characters and a fast moving plot which keeps ladling on the jeopardy.
It also keeps deftly blending the old and the new. After Sarah Connor turns up, quipping "I'll be back," we get Schwarzenegger himself, with a greying beard and a grizzled teddy bear look. It's kind of reassuring that his accent is still incomprehensible after all these years
Terminator: Dark Fate manages the difficult trick of both being great fun and, occasionally, deeply serious.
It is a wholly satisfying film, and I left the cinema with that feeling you have when you've seen a good one.
I'm still worried about what happened to Taco the dog, though...
(Image credits: a healthy selection of posters at Imp Awards.)