Movie Review: TOTAL RECALL
Published: August 2, 2012 - 8:50am
Following the same basic beats as the 1990 film, this action-packed remake offers a more grounded science fiction storyline and fantastic effects coupled with solid performances from Farrell and Biel. While the final few scenes play out very campy and predictably, they didn't stifle my enjoyment of the film as a whole one bit.
Within the opening moments of Total Recall the main difference between this and it's original is explained. Years ago, chemical warfare left 90% of the Earth uninhabitable. Only the United Federation of Britain (what was once England) and The Colony (Australia), remain livable; the former filled with wealthy citizens while the later is overpopulated with everyone else. The two landmasses are connected by a subterranean tunnel -- passing through the Earth's core -- that is equipped with a gigantic vehicle called "The Fall" which transports thousands of low income factory workers from their home in The Colony to the UFB and back again.
Enter Collin Farrell's Doug Quaid, who is introduced while trying to escape from a hospital with an unknown woman (Jessica Biel) that ends with them both being shot and he captured. We quickly learn that this scene, which carries a heavy vibe of the famous escape from the Death Star in Star Wars, is not really happening but a recurring nightmare of his. Quaid is a factory worker from The Colony who feels trapped in his simple life and eventually turns to Rekall -- a company specializing in false memory implants -- for a respite of adventure. Unfortunately for Quaid, his procedure triggers a sequence of events that tear apart his simple life and throws him into the world of counter-espionage.
If you're a fan of director Paul Verhoeven Total Recall of the 90's, like me, I can see how you'd go into this film with much apprehension. But it doesn't take long to realize that, though it may follow the same story structure, this is a completely different animal. Underworld director Len Wiseman is at his best here, moving the film along at breakneck speeds while offering just enough time for the main cast to develop their characters instead of simply mirroring the original performances of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone and others. This is a serious science fiction movie, grounded in a reality that feels both dystopian and relatable. I liked the changes that were made in this film, both storywise and visually, especially swapping Mars/Earth landscapes with two factions of Earth. Much praise goes to production designer Patrick Tatopoulos for crafting the most realistic effects I've seen in a sci-fi movie in years. The sheer scope of the set design (almost all CG) is incredible, and everything from the haunting police robots (Note: someone tell George Lucas that THIS is how you make an effective droid army on film) to the car chases make it feel like you can walk out of the theater and experience them for yourself.
Farrell and Biel are fantastic in their roles and their chemistry is passable considering they spend most of their time running and fighting instead of interacting. Kate Beckinsale, playing the dual roles of Quaid's wife and undercover operative, dishes out most of the film's one-liners that Schwarzenegger is remembered for which are made even more delightful when paired with how vicious she acts. Two of the most important characters to the overarching story are the ones barely seen, UFB leader Chancellor Cohaagan played by Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy (using a devilishly enjoyable American accent for once) as Colony Resistance leader Matthias. Both play their parts well, but lacked the screen time needed to make the weight of their clashing motivations memorable.
As a remake of a beloved and iconic property this film succeeds in delivering it's own story while offering plenty of nods to the original. While the epilogue went a bit too far in terms of trying to tie up loose ends, Total Recall features a fast-paced and engaging story coupled with amazing effects and hardcore action beats. It's a streamlined amalgam of The Bourney Identity and Blade Runner, a solid and very enjoyable return to the sci-fi/action genre I grew up with.
"Total Recall" is an action thriller about reality and memory, inspired anew by the famous short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick. Welcome to Rekall, the company that can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), even though he's got a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale) who he loves, the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life - real memories of life as a super-spy might be just what he needs. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. Finding himself on the run from the police – controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), the leader of the free world – Quaid teams up with a rebel fighter (Jessica Biel) to find the head of the underground resistance (Bill Nighy) and stop Cohaagen. The line between fantasy and reality gets blurred and the fate of his world hangs in the balance as Quaid discovers his true identity, his true love, and his true fate.
Total Recall is directed by Len Wiseman from a screenplay by Mark Bomback (Unstoppable), James Vanderbilt (The Amazing Spider-Man), and Kurt Wimmer (Law Abiding Citizen). The film stars Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, Kate Beckinsale, John Cho and Ethan Hawke and hits theaters August 3rd, 2012.