Commando (1985)

The Basic Details:

Name of Movie: Commando
Year: 1985
Director: Mark L. Lester
Writer: Steven E. de Souza
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rae Dawn Chong, Dan Hedaya
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Original Studio: 20th Century Fox
Available on: Disney Plus


This is one of those films I had always heard about, but never seen. I grew up watching Schwarzenegger in his more comedic roles during the 80s and 90s but had little desire to see the action roles that made him a movie star. after reading his recent book, Be Useful, I felt keen to explore this side of his career. One of the roles which helped cement his status as an action star was 1985’s Commando.

The Basic Plot:

The film follows former United States Army Special Forces Colonel John Matrix (Schwarzenegger), on his mission to retrieve his kidnapped daughter (Alyssa Molano) from a group led by former team member Captain Bennet (Vernon Wells). On the way, Matrix picks up Cindy, (Rae Dawn Chong) who gets involved in the action.

My Thoughts:

The film begins with a surreal sequence that attempts to build on John’s status as a loving father. We see him living with his daughter and enjoying life, before drama comes to them. I find it hard to believe that directors didn’t see his family-friendly potential, he exhibits it in these opening sequences.

Commando sets off at quite a pace moving from one major set piece to another. The story is fairly basic and leaves the finer details to the viewer’s imagination. This is not a film for you if you’re looking for complex character development. The supporting players act as functions to propel the story forward and lead the way for John Matrix. The supporting cast of bad guys including Sully, Cooke and Bennett are as intimidating as they need to be; Perhaps a little archetype in places, but they create some memorable moments.

It is clear to see why Schwarzenegger became a huge movie star. His strong build means he has prescience, and knows how to use it. While the acting may appear wooden in certain parts, it fits the mood and style the film aims for. The film is full of impressive action sequences, varying from fights to car chases and everything in between. The way Schwarzenegger uses his strength here is unique to him, I have a hard time imagining another actor who could do it so convincingly. He also utilizes humour in a way which lands in most cases; Especially before or after he conquers another milestone.

Chong plays an off-duty flight attendant Cindy, who assists Matrix in his mission. There are moments where it is clear this film was made in a different era, but she proves an important part of moving things forward. As indestructible as Matrix is, the story wouldn’t breathe in the same way without her. A young Alyssa Molano plays daughter Jenny Matrix and does what she can with the little she’s given. She appears merely an object for Matrix to retrieve, with plenty of fights, kills and explosions along the way.

Commando has an excessively high body count, especially towards the end as Matrix reaches the final climax. Matrix is the fully loaded masculine macho male with the skills to take down any enemy in his path. The kills vary from light to gruesome but mostly stick in the middle. There were moments where we literally gasped, especially during the long final sequence of events. As a mid-80s action flick, seeing the main character’s resourcefulness in reaching his goal is exhilarating, and a little overwhelming in places. The film is only 90 minutes but it felt like a lot was squeezed in.


Overall, I found Commando to be a thrilling spectacle of pure 1980s action. It isn’t perfect and not everything stands up to even the tiniest bit of scrutiny, but I don’t believe it this to be the point. It’s a vehicle for Schwarzenegger that exudes action and shows off some of his best traits. Some of the fight scenes may appear comical or cliche to modern eyes, but there is still a degree of impressiveness in the execution. The humour may seem cheesy, but we love cheese. The plot may be thin, but ACTION. Commando is available to stream on Disney+ in the UK.

What do you think of Commando?

Jamie Dyer

Jamie Dyer is an experienced writer, broadcaster, musician and social media marketer. He enjoys Old Time Radio, vintage TV, collecting vinyl and supporting the New York Knicks.

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