I’m not one of those who thought Verhoeven’s original Total Recall was a masterpiece. Or even a good film. I only really enjoyed the first 20 minutes of that 1990 flick, and once Arnie got his arse to Mars, I found it alternately boring and frustrating. So, for me, the idea of a remake isn’t sacrilege.
Now we have Len Wiseman at the helm of a film that tries to be both a remake of Verhoeven’s feature and the original Philip K. Dick short story. Set on a post apocalyptic Earth, this version sees Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) – a completely normal, everyday, humdrum man with 0.5 per cent body fat and six pack abs – wishing for something more than his everyday experiences. The daily commute through the centre of the Earth’s core is just as unexciting as the train journeys you or I take to work, and returning home to his tiny, crappy apartment equally less than thrilling. Thus, he decides to take a trip to Rekall, a company that can infuse your brain with the memories of adventures you never had. So far, so Schwartzenegger (except maybe the trip through the Earth’s core). Wiseman’s film differs in a number of ways, the most significant being that we never go to Mars. The question of what is real and what is a dream is also at the forefront, but don’t go expecting this to be anything like A Scanner Darkly – Total Recall is an action movie through and through.
And a damn fine action movie at that. The film is chock full of brilliantly conceived, choreographed and shot action. Gone is the blandly awful action from Wiseman’s Underworld films, full of frenetic editing and underlit scenes. There are so many genius shots in this film that I couldn’t even begin to list them all, however I must say that the scene that builds upon the concepts explored in Vincenzo Natali’s Cube works a treat.
Even more importantly, Wiseman’s future vision looks splendid. Sure, it’s nothing original – more than a little Blade Runner with a dash of Minority Report – but it’s one of the better futuristic cityscapes I’ve seen in recent years. More importantly, it was clear that, wherever possible, actual sets were utilised. Farrell and co. move through wonderfully detailed, lived in sets that are rather spectacular. The world is peppered with some interesting technology also, showing us the future of not only automobiles and helicopters, but also mobile phones and surveillance cameras.
The worst parts of Total Recall would have to be the occasional yet blindingly obvious nods to the original. Such ‘wink, wink, nod, nod’ moments are completely superfluous and took me out of the film every single time.
In the final analysis, this film doesn’t do anything that any of the other Philip K. Dick adaptations we’ve seen before. Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel all get the job done. Bill Nighy and Bryan Cranston appear in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos, whilst John Cho is probably the only person that really stands out in a brief but entertaining role.
The film is overlong at 118 minutes (with a climax that never seems to end) but overall this is an entertaining and exciting action movie in an impressively realised setting.Rating: