“While Total Recall isn’t the deepest or most complex of science fiction films, it is full of enough exciting action and captivating characters to hold your interest until its spectacular climax!”
Science Fiction, Action and Espionage
Starring - Colin Farrell/Douglas Quaid & Hauser, Kate Beckinsale/Lori Quaid, Jessica Biel/Melina, Bryan Cranston/Cohaagen, Bokeem Woodbine/Harry and Bill Nighy/Matthias
Director – Len Wiseman
Writer(s) - Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback screenplay based on the Philip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale"
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity and language.
Runtime - 118 min
Let’s get this out of the way immediately: Total Recall - despite the title – is not a remake of the 1990 film of the same name. If you were a fan of the original film, also very loosely based on the Philip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale", than nothing I can say will convince you that this new movie is worth spending your time and money to see at the theater. Conversely, if you disliked the 1990 film, there is a chance you will like this film, but still be confused as to why they bothered to make another film with the same title, but with a completely different setting and plot. I don’t have an answer to the later question, but I will attempt to explain why I think Total Recall is a good, if somewhat flawed, science fiction film.
The setting for Total Recall is 2084 in which most of the surface of Earth has been made uninhabitable by a global nuclear war. Two areas are left inhabitable: The former British Isles now run by the United Federation of Britain and the continent of Australia, now dubbed The Colony. Workers commute daily between the two nations via a massive underground gravity elevator which travels through the Earth’s core.
Douglas Quaid is one of those commuters. He travels from his small apartment in the crowded capital of the UFB to a manufacturing complex in The Colony, to work on an assembly line manufacturing armored police robots. Tiring of this life and his recurring nightmares, Quaid visits Rekall, a company that promises to implant memories to help him escape his mundane existence. Instead, before the Rekall procedure even begins, they discover Quaid has already been implanted with memories and accuse him of being a UFB spy. This sets off a series of alarms and Quaid is surrounded by security officers before he can escape. Quaid kills all the officers with unknown skill and escapes home to his wife Lori. When Quaid confesses to Lori what has happened, she reveals the truth about their relationship and Quaid finds himself on the run from his past life that he knows little about.
Total Recall is essentially a futuristic spy story. The memory implantation technology devise is used only to set up the true narrative of Quaid’s previous life [SPOILER] as an agent for the USB and how he was used to infiltrate a resistance movement that is attempting to free The Colony from the USB’s influence. I am not adverse to using futuristic technology as a devise to hang a more conventional plot on and Total Recall does make use of one very important piece of future tech to implement an important plot point on. Unfortunately for me, this bit of technology did not seem plausible to me. The idea that you could boar a hole large enough to fit a “gravity elevator” large enough to transport hundreds of people doesn’t seem feasible to me. The Earth’s core is theorized to be made up of solid iron–nickel alloy under millions of pounds of pressure and has an estimated temperature of 9,800 ° Fahrenheit! Let’s say materials could be made to withstand these significant obstacles, common sense tells you that England is not the geological antipode of Australia. A quick search on an antipodal map shows that the antipode of England is about 1000 km southeast of New Zealand and the antipode of Australia is several 1000s of km west of Spain in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean! While this works well as a metaphor for the opposition between the UFB and The Colony, it would have been nice if the writers could have done a bit more research to work around these physical improbabilities.
My scientific quibbles notwithstanding, I did enjoy Total Recall overall. The complex relationships between Quaid, his wife and his other love interest make for some fantastic physical confrontations. The plot of Quaid’s past is reveled quickly enough so that the majority of the film is taken over by his conflict with his former and current alliances. The film rushes along at a fantastic rate and culminates with a very satisfying visceral conclusion.
Colin Farrell as our hero Douglas Quaid is serviceable, if somewhat uninspiring. Jessica Biel is believable and fairly complex as Melinda the resistance agent. Kate Beckinsale as Lori Quaid really steals the show! She is terrifying and gorgeous at the same time! The many fight scenes between her and Farrell are both disturbing and realistic at the same time. Another nice character twist is played by Bokeem Woodbine, who plays Quaid’s friend and co-worker at the beginning of the film, but transforms into a completely different character lateR in the film.
The look of Total Recall is deep, rich and very immersive! The digital mat work is seamless and I kept looking at the cityscapes trying to figure out what was a real set and what was digital and I could not. I loved the sleek look of the flying cars, the detailed cacophony of massive infrastructure supporting the towering buildings and the details in the crowded roadways and sidewalks. It did have quite a few similarities to the look of Blade Runner, but there were enough differences to keep it from being a complete knock off.
While Total Recall isn’t the deepest or most complex of science fiction films, it is full of enough exciting action and captivating characters to hold your interest until its spectacular climax!
TECHNICAL: Acting – 9 Directing – 9 Cinematography – 9 Script – 8 Special Effects – 10
VISCERAL: Visual – 10 Auditory – 9 Intellectual – 8 Emotional – 9 Involvement – 10
TOTAL - 91