Movie Review: Total Recall / Cert: 12A / Director: Len Wiseman / Screenplay: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback / Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston / Release Date: Out Now
In a grey, drizzly future which looks suspiciously like Amsterdam's Red Light district, a bored factory worker heads to a place called 'Total Rekall', where they promise to implant exciting (but fake) memories deep in his mind. “Ooh,” says this factory worker, who looks a lot like Colin Farrell, “I'll have the plot of Total Recall please.”
And so Colin Farrell gets to be Arnold Schwarzenegger for the day, replaying the plot of Total Recall as dictated by someone who only saw the first half. Len Wiseman's re-imagining (a term that itself sounds like a line from a Philip K. Dick story) purports to be an adaptation of the story We Remember it for You Wholesale rather than a remake of the 1990s sci-fi classic, but frankly, they're fooling no one. Throughout the first half, whole scenes are repeated almost verbatim. Only this time with added lens flare. There's a lot of lens flare in the future, even in Douglas Quaid's apartment, which has as much of it going on as the bridge of the starship Enterprise.
The first half is more or less the same as Verhoeven's version, complete with the various twists and turns therein. Where it differs is in what has been left out later on. There's no Mars, no mutants and, sadly, no space suffocation scenes. The 12A rating means that nobody's eyeballs at any point pop out of their skulls. Not once does Colin Farrell pull an enormous pulsating tracking device from his nose (although the removal of his 'hand phone' looks reasonably painful). The violence has been toned down massively, with Quaid obliterating masses of iPhone lookalike androids instead of any human threat.
And yet, against all odds, Total Recall is a lot of fun. Its depiction of an overcrowded future looks great. The film has a number of nifty gadgets at its disposal (bondage guns, oh my!) while its scenes set upon 'The Fall' are very well played. In a beefed up role as Quaid's she-Terminator wife, Kate Beckinsale steals the show. As she doles out kicking after kicking to Colin Farrell and Jessica Biel, her impressive physicality from Underworld comes in handy. Farrell doesn't have Arnie's blunt force charisma, but he's a sympathetic lead. While Jessica Biel's love interest feels perfunctory, it's Bryan Cranston who disappoints the most. Given very little to work with, his critical high from Breaking Bad seems so very far away. There's not even any reason for him to be there, given the amount of underlings he has at his disposal.
Total Recall is an entertaining sci-fi thriller with excellent visuals and solid action scenes. It's a very pleasant surprise and entirely watchable, reminiscent of other sci-fi blockbusters such as I, Robot and Minority Report. It's immediately, harmlessly forgettable, which, for a film called Total Recall, is delightfully ironic.
Expected Rating: 5/10