Total Recall – Film Review
TITLE: Total Recall
STARRING: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy
DIRECTOR: Len Wiseman
STUDIO: Original Film, Columbia Pictures
RUN TIME: 121 min
RELEASED: August 3, 2012
By Eric Stuckart
With the summer blockbuster season winding down for the most part (not counting the next entry in the Bourne series or The Expendables 2), we’re left with the scraps. At the top of that pile is the unnecessary remake of Total Recall, starring Colin Farrell.
Farrell plays a man named Douglas Quaid, a factory worker in a world ravaged by World War III. Due to toxicity levels overrunning the atmosphere, the only habitable places left on the planet are the United Federation of Britain and The Colony, which is what’s left of Australia. Quaid keeps having nightmares that seem too real to just be figments of his imagination, and it’s been causing him to become increasingly more unsatisfied with his life.
Finally in an act of desperation, he decides to visit Rekall, a company that advertises that they can implant memories into one’s for recreational purposes. Of course, he uses his dreams of being some sort of secret agent as the basis for his “trip” from Rekall, and things pretty much go sideways from there on. He’s caught in the middle of a class warfare battle between UFB Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) and the Resistance, a group of rebels from The Colony fighting for equality. Cranston and his army of Clone Trooper-inspired robot soldiers are playing it off like the Resistance are the bad guys, and vice versa, all while Quaid is trying to figure out what’s real and what’s Rekall, or recall, or something like that.
The effects are decent enough when they’re not looking like they were ripped straight out of one of the many post-apocalyptic and/or futuristic video games out there, and Farrell brings a lot of depth to his conflicted, confused character, but there really isn’t a whole lot else that couldn’t have been swapped out for other actors and actresses. Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel have always played their roles steely and cool, and that’s pretty much all you can expect here, making them more or less appear as plot constructs for the film, and Cranston plays a decent enough villain, but his mannerisms remind me a little too much of his Walter White character on Breaking Bad.
The setup and midsection of the film are in my opinion are much better than the stereotypical finale; once you learn all the secrets and what’s really going on, the movie kind of wanders off into typical action trope territory. It’s not a particularly bad film, but it’s not really the type of movie that gets you sitting on the edge of your seat, either. Part of the reason for that is because the original is much more memorable than this, and because much of the science fiction ends up becoming eschewed in favor of running and gunning action sequences towards the tail end of the film.
Although it’s been a number of years since I’ve seen the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film, it had a number of scenes that have been seared into my memories for life. The “two weeks lady” disguise, the three breasted prostitute, peoples’ eyes bugging out on the surface of Mars; the original Total Recall might have not been the greatest film, but it made up for it with unforgettable scenes and director Paul Verhoeven’s twisted and darkly comical commentary on commercialism and propaganda.
The remake tries to do its own thing, but ultimately stumbles by reminding viewers of the original whenever it needs a shot of adrenaline to get us interested again, which is something that should never happen if you expect your remake to be taken as its own piece of work. The best way to go into Total Recall is expecting nothing more than a summer popcorn flick. Expecting more than that would require a memory wipe, possibly wholesale.
Front page image and interior stills from rottentomatoes.com.