Directors: Len Wiseman
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine
IT’S all too easy to dismiss Total Recall as yet another example of an unoriginal Hollywood remake whose only reason for existing is a an attempt at cashing in on a popular film from the ‘90s. But while the Schwarzenegger-led version of Total Recall and the 2012 take are both inspired by the Philip K. Dick We Can Remember it for You Wholesale novel, the Farrell-led sci-fi outing is more of a reimagining of the same material that quickly proves that it has a lot more to offer than treading familiar cinema territory.
Douglas Quaid (Farrell) is a factory worker married to a hot wife, Lori (Beckinsale) and living in a world where alleged terrorist attacks are a constant threat. His existence is mundane and he openly questions whether he should be doing more to his friend and co-worker Harry (Woodbine), all the while battling with the same sleep-destroying dream that features Melina (Biel) night in, night out. After a few too many beers, Quaid gives into the temptation to visit Rekall—a facility that offers implanted fake memories to escape the everyday—and the shit hits the fan.
The implant operator notices hidden memories of Quaid’s former life as a spy, and a group of armed-to-the-teeth police officers burst in and attempt to arrest Quaid. Terrified and compliant, Quaid’s muscle memory kicks in when an officer attempts to cuff him, and he wastes the police group in a breath. After narrowly escaping fuzz reinforcements, Quaid relays the story to his Lori who turns on him. All is not as it seems, and Quaid must outrun Lori and the law while attempting to unlock his past self, buried deep within his mind.
Len Wiseman’s world is a breathtaking affair, beautifully shot and as visually memorable as the likes of the future Earth in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. The distinction between the dystopian split of the upper-hemisphere privileged citizens, versus the slum-like state of those that live in “the colony” (yes, that refers to a sci-fi Australia) is a joy to behold in every long shot of this believable future world.
But the real shining star of Total Recall is how much action it manages to cram into its 118-minute runtime. There are no shaky-cam techniques at play here, so you can actually make out what’s happening in the various car chases, firefights and good ol’ fashion fisticuffs that raise the bar with each instance.
If you go into Total Recall expecting to be blown away with an Inception-like level of depth, compelling dialogue or expert characterisation, you’re seeing the wrong film. In most instances, the dialogue and characters are about as deep as the Arnie film, but the actors are also having a lot of fun in the process. Farrell has the onscreen chops to carry the film, while Beckinsale continues to show that she can believably kick arse (especially against the guys), and offers more than a match for the Farrell/Biel combo. Even Bryan “I’m in every film lately” Cranston sinks his teeth into his portrayal of the main bad guy, making the most of what little screen time he has.
It’s necessary to leave your expectations of a straight remake of the 1990 Total Recall at the door in order to get into the spirit of the film; but then, this Total Recall really isn’t trying to mirror what went before. There are more than a few nods to the Arnie film, but Wiseman’s Total Recall has the cast, the budget and enough action to deserve respect on its own merit, while simultaneously justifying the cost of a ticket. Perhaps most refreshingly, everything that Total Recall promises in the trailer is delivered in the film; how often can you say that these days?
TOTAL RECALL is in cinemas now.
Review: Nathan Lawrence