Movie Review: Total Recall
Length: 118 minutes
Release Date: August 3, 2012
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Genre: Action, Adventure and Sci-Fi
Stars: 4 out of 5
"Total Recall" is based on Philip K. Dick's 1966 short story, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale." It is the second film to use Dick's story, after the 1990 movie with the same title. Starring Colin Farrell, Bokeem Woodbine and Bryan Cranston, "Total Recall" tells the story of a factory worker who discovers that he has been implanted with memories of a life he never lived. The movie is fast paced and entertaining, offering a more political take on the story than the 1990 version.
The story opens on Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), a factory worker in The Colony, which is one of Earth's two superpowers. Quaid is continuously tortured by nightmares that hint at another, more violent life. Confused and discontented, he visits Rekall, a business that places artificial memories into the brains of citizens. When Quaid fails the compatibility requirements, he is accused of being a spy. His fears are confirmed when he discusses the events with his wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale). Upon his revelation, Lori-who is really an undercover agent-attempts to kill Quaid.
After a struggle, during which Quaid discovers a surprising ability to fight adversaries, he escapes. With the help of a former associate, he follows a series of clues until he discovers the truth: he was once an agent named Carl Hauser, but he was implanted with false memories when he joined the resistance against the government.
With the help of a past lover, Melina (Jessica Biel), Quaid evades Lori and the police by escaping through a network of elevator shafts. They make their way to the Resistance headquarters, where Quaid learns more about his past. Matthias (Bill Nighy) informs Quaid that his past memories contain a code that will stop a terrorist plot, and the two hatch a plan to retrieve it. In a series of exciting plot twists, Quaid and Melina end up on the run, determined to save the world from the warring superpowers.
The plot is the star of "Total Recall." The actors appear to be discovering each twist along with the audience, which creates an undeniable sense of excitement. As each new angle is revealed, viewers will sit on the edge of their seats, hoping for a positive outcome.
Colin Farrell shines as the confused Quaid. The audience will have no trouble believing that he has been thrust into a world of spies and action, which is simultaneously foreign and disturbingly familiar. As his character rediscovers the skills he learned as an undercover agent, which have lain dormant for seven years, Farrell manages to convey a beguiling mix of excitement, fear and total confidence. Although he is more believable as a fast-moving spy than a down-and-out factory worker, the actor manages to create considerable emotional depth in the midst of chase scenes and fight sequences.
As Quaid's two love interests in "Total Recall," Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel light up the screen. Clad in tight-fitting outfits and sporting long, shimmering locks, the two actresses fight through scene after scene, acting as both emotional motivation and visual interest. Biel is believable as a freedom fighter, though less so as a woman in love with Quaid. In a delightful departure from her usual roles, Beckinsale is dark and evil, stalking through the film with a permanent scowl.
Director Len Wiseman, who is best known for his work on "Live Free or Die Hard," based his film on the 1990 version. Several times in the movie, he tips his hat to the earlier film, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone. For the most part, however, Wiseman chooses to focus on the action rather than the mental drama. His version of "Total Recall" includes high-tech gadgets, chases involving flying cars and a dark, dismal future. Quaid's inner struggle-to determine what is real and what is not-is marginalized in favor of the fast-paced sequences. Whereas the original film earned its "R" rating with bloody violence, Wiseman's version is sleeker and more sophisticated.
Overall, "Total Recall" is a creative and entertaining re-imagining of the original short story and the 1990 movie. The actors commit to their parts completely, and viewers are never pulled out of the story by a break in character. The movie offers a creative and unexpected look at a world damaged by chemical warfare, and viewers will be interested to see the mechanics of travel. The movie is not suitable for young children, but teenagers and adults will enjoy the action, romance and the nonstop adventure.