Verhoeven’s Total Recall (1990) is violent, cheesy and grotesque; but it absolutely succeeds with steadily mind f*cking your perception of the reality/unreality of what’s taken place. It poses a question “Total Recall?” Wiseman’s reboot feels like it glaringly omits the possibility that this is all a dream and instead creating a futuristic espionage action film – instead blindly declaring “TOTAL RECALL!”
In a not too distant future where nuclear war has rendered a majority of the planet unliveable (all except the ‘United Federation of Britain’ & “The Colony” aka Australia), a colony factory worker Quaid (Colin Farrell) yearns for something more than the production line (married to Kate Beckinsale – how could you possibly be complacent?!) mediocrity. He decides to go to Rekall, a memory implant service that allows you to remember that you’ve lived out your wildest fantasies. During the procedure instead of implanting memories it unlocks his true self – Hauser the most wanted spy on Earth…or does it?
Len Wiseman does a fine job of marking the action with movement. I enjoyed feeling choreographed and transported through the scenes. Though, unfortunately it’s yet another film that he crafts performances made to pace out the action. The scripting (muddied by too many divergent visions) gives you too much muting the story’s essence of the blurred distinction between reality and unreality. What were throw away lines in the original e.g.choice descriptions about the specifications of his fantasy and companions etc that create doubt with the viewers are now over explained and definitive “no he’s really this Hauser guy” speeches.
Colin Farrell is a phenomenal actor – when he’s guided by a strong director with tight scripting (In Bruges, Miami Vice). But with the weak dialogue and the straight forward amnesiac character arc, he’s left with nothing to do except participate in action sequences.Kate Beckinsale plays Lori the hard hitting villain and it’s refreshing to see her occupying the screen in her native accent. Although the entire time I watch Beckinsale beat up Farrell, I couldn’t help but unpack Wiseman’s motivations to see his wife beat up a guy that looked just like him for 90 mins.
Brian Cranston’s as ‘bad guy’ Cohaagen demonstrates that under any set of conditions he’s an acting phenom. There’s more subtle derivations in his facial gestures as his character processes any given situation that any of the other performers in the film.
Total Recall (2012) all-but abandons the muddy, ambivalent politics, and indistinguishable reality/unreality for a futuristic spy thriller. As an action film it totally succeeds. As a sci-fi adaption it had such a violent labotomy that I may need to suffocate it with a pillow, toss a fountain out the window and run screaming into the woods.
and a half
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Written by: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback, Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Jon Povill
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Brian Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy
Total Recall is released on the 3rd of August in the USA, the 23rd of August in Australia and the 29th of August in the U.K.