Friday, October 5, 2012

Total Recall (Movie Review)

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson

Welcome to Rekall, the company that can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), even though he’s got a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale) who he loves, the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life – real memories of life as a super-spy might be just what he needs. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. Finding himself on the run from the police – controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), the leader of the free world – Quaid teams up with a rebel fighter (Jessica Biel) to find the head of the underground resistance (Bill Nighy) and stop Cohaagen. The line between fantasy and reality gets blurred and the fate of his world hangs in the balance as Quaid discovers his true identity, his true love, and his true fate.

Film (3 out of 5 stars) 

Instead of making a sequel to the original film as most would have preferred, the powers that be decided to do another remake instead. While this remake contains much of the same story as the original, it does stray away in some cases with mixed results.  This version of Total Recall doesn’t visit Mars (which doesn't help the movie) and makes some other changes to a few roles as well.  This version offers some flashier special effects and some impressive action scenes, but it lacks the original’s satirical sense of humor, more interesting characters, and originality since this is essentially the same movie without much added.
The movie takes place at the end of the21st century and a war has destroyed much of the Earth.  In fact, there’s only two hospitable place left to live – The United Federation of Britain and The Colony (basically Australia).  The rich and powerful reside in Britain, while the less well to do workers live in The Colony and travel to Britain to work through “The Fall” a massive gravity elevator that travels through the Earth’s core to transport them there and back again. Why a technologically advanced planet that has access to air cars can’t travel through the air to Britain isn’t explained which doesn’t make any sense.  Why go to the considerable expense and risk of going through the planet’s core, for no other reason that it might look cool onscreen and will set up your predictable ending?
In any case, the terra-commuters aren’t too happy with their lot in life and some of them have formed a resistance to the administration of Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston).  The battle between the resistance and Cohaagen is an ongoing one with the news reporting terrorist bombings which keeps Lori (Kate Beckinsale taking over from Sharon Stone) busy dealing with the aftermath.  Lori is married to an unhappy droid factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell in the role originated by Arnold Schwarzenegger) who feels like he isn’t making a difference with his life and desires change.
Despite his friends warning him against it, he decides that his life needs excitement (despite being married to a super-babe) and he goes to Rekall, a company that implants memories that seem real.  He asks the Rekall employee McClane (John Cho) to implant memories of being a secret agent since that appeals to him.  Quaid is them tested to make sure that he is compatible for that memory since one of the rules of Rekall is that the memories can’t be similar to something you’ve already done for real.  When Quaid fails the test, McClane accuses him of being a real spy before a SWAT team breaks into Rekall and kills McClane and all of the other employees.  As Quaid is being arrested, he instinctively goes into combat mode and kills the SWAT team single-handedly and escapes.
Arriving at home, Quaid confesses what he’s done to Lori who then tries to kill him after telling him that she isn’t really his wife, but instead an undercover agent for the UFB who had been assigned to keep an eye on him.  Quaid escapes Lori and her team and is contacted by a former associate who warns him that he is being tracked by a phone that was implanted in his hand and also where Quaid can find a safe deposit box that can help him.  After cutting the phone out of his hand, Quaid recovers the box and discovers a video message from his former self that tells him his name is Hauser and that he was a double agent for the UFB that had been sent in to infiltrate the resistance.
Confused and unsure of who to trust, Quaid tries to escape the noose that’s tightening around him by using a holographic projector to disguise his appearance.  When that fails, he goes back on the run only to be saved by literally the woman of his dreams named Malina (Jessica Biel) who was his partner and girlfriend in his former life. The two of them are chased non-stop by Lori and her men thanks to Cohaagen who wants Quaid brought in alive – a decision that Lori disagrees with and disregards.  When Quaid and Malina unwittingly lead Cohaagen to the resistance’s headquarters and leader Matthias (Bill Nighy), Quaid discovers that he must choose a side and decide who he really is – the ruthless Hauser or the heroic Quaid.
This version of Total Recall kept me entertained but once I left the theater, it didn’t keep me thinking about it as it’s very disposable and essentially fluff.  It lacks the thought-provoking aspects of the original and even the original’s premise of what’s real and what’s rekall has been largely lost in this movie.  Once Quaid picks Malina over his former co-worker/friend, there’s no ambiguity left in the movie.  Even though every cast member does a fine job in this, I still prefer the original’s cast.  Kate Beckinsale especially seemed to really enjoy her villainous role that’s been much expanded from the original to basically cover Sharon Stone’s role and the role of Richter that was played by Michael Ironside.  It’s nice to see Colin Farrell back in  a big budget movie again and he’s good in it but the role of Quaid was better suited to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s larger than life persona that meshed perfectly with the genre-bending concept of the movie.  
Although this version has some good moments, there’s nothing different enough or improved upon to justify this remake.  I’m all for remakes if they can add a twist or bring something new to the table, but I don’t get why anyone would want to essentially make the same movie all over again whether it’s Psycho or Total Recall.  It would have been far better to just continue the story which would have taken it somewhere new and given the characters new experiences which would have been better than just rebooting the franchise. If director Len Wiseman had spent more time focusing on improving on the story and less time with adding a crappy looking lens flare every five minutes, this would have been a much better movie. 
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