TOTAL RECALL (2012)
Colony factory worker Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), has a beautiful wife who he loves (Kate Beckinsale), but the mind-trip offered by Rekall sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life - real memories of life as a super-spy. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, he - the spy - becomes a hunted man, on the run from the United Federation of Britain police, controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston). There is no one Quaid can trust, except possibly Lori (Jessica Biel), a rebel fighter from The Colony, working for the head of the underground, Matthias (Bill Nighy). 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.
Review by Louise Keller:
If, like me, you have affection for Paul Verhoeven's 1990 original sci-fi adaptation of Philip K. Dick's short story starring Arnold Schwarzenegger whose dreams and memories are interchanged, you would be best advised to avoid this remake by Len Wiseman. With Mars no longer represented as a destination, the overall mood has changed from a sci-fi adventure to yet another big explosion action thriller with a loud music score and derivation from countless movies.
Colin Farrell in the Schwarzenegger role of Douglas Quaid and Hauser is charismatic and engaging as always but the role has morphed with the times and is more reminiscent of a heroic Jason Bourne than a character that is unique.
The darkly surreal production design is perhaps the most striking aspect of the film with massive mechanical structures reminiscent of Metropolis and shades of RoboCop, Dark City, the Fifth Element, Mr & Mrs Smith and Star Wars. But it is the rise of China, stamped all over the film that is its biggest statement. Chinese lanterns, carved wooden panels, Eastern parasols, sampans tattoos are to be found everywhere and every little bit of space - from the ground up - is used to maximum advantage.
Chaos reigns in the two inhabitable places on the planet (The Colony - previously known as Australia - and The United Federation of Britain), with flying cars, multi-layered constructions, highways and a complex maze of giant elevators that offer many big stunt opportunities.
Farrell has good screen presence and Jessica Biel is likeable in the role of Melina. Kate Beckinsale plays Lori, the Sharon Stone role, which may have been enlarged, but not improved. The physical difference between the blonde and brunette had its own dynamic in the original film, but here Beckinsale (Wiseman's spouse) has been directed to play a maniacal crazy woman with hair extensions, who says sh*t once (or twice) too often. Bill Nighy's role as the revolutionary Matthias is quite small; it is Bryan Cranston as Cohaagen, the UFB chancellor, intent on destroying Matthias who gets more screen time.
There is an overload of confusion, shooting, broken glass, people rushing and screaming plus massive explosions and serious stunts. Some of it feels like a video game and some of the time I was unsure exactly what was happening, except that there was plenty of action. There is never much sense of actual danger - for me the best parts are novel ideas like using the hand as an illuminated phone, giving new meaning to keeping your mobile phone close. The line of dialogue that sums it all up quite neatly, comes nearly at the end, when Melina says: 'It's hard to believe, isn't it?'
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Most of those keen to see Total Recall of 2012 will not much care how it compares to either the 1966 Philip K. Dick short story on which it's based, nor on the 1990 original adaptation starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, directed by Paul Verhoeven. So I won't go there.
On its own and out of that context, Total Recall is an 8 cylinder sci-fi action thriller offering stunning visual pleasures, from the high-grunt fantasy world of the overpopulated future, where chemical warfare has rendered most of the planet unliveable, to the seamless stunts and effects. Everyone is squeezed into the United Federation of Britain - which takes in the UK and much of Europe - and The Colony: Australia. (It gets a laugh.)
Mostly grungy and teeming with multiculturalism, the UFB seems like a Fascist state which imports labour from The Colony in giant tube-like contraptions that travel in a tunnel through the centre of the earth. It's a helluva commute.
But we start with getting to know Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), a worker in The Colony, whose downbeat pad is depressing, although his lovely, loving wife (Kate Beckinsale) is not. He feels drawn to the promise of Rekall, a service that will give him some excitement by implanting 'memories' of any fantasy he wants. His friend at work, Harry (Bookeem Woodbine, excellent), warns him against it, but he won't listen.
The film takes too long to get going but when it does, it supercharges the pace and becomes a relentless chase - or rather, a sequence of chases. The story tumbles along, almost as confusingly for us as for poor Quaid, who has to try and figure out not only who he really is but on which side he's fighting.
All those fascinating psychological and philosophical issues (what is real and what makes us who we are) are thrown into the meat grinder of the action movie construct, with Colin Farrell fighting and bleeding his way through a series of hurdles. Kate Beckinsale has become a ferocious action heroine - in this case anti-heroine - and Jessica Biel is a terrific contrast as the sweet, grounded and trustworthy Lori.
The film is relentless in its use of camera, editing and music to keep our engines revving in top gear, so much so we tend to flood our carburettors. Fans of hard action films will find plenty to enjoy, though, with both large scale stunts and hand to hand combat. It deserves plenty of technical accolades, but it hardly pauses to gain the traction of meaning behind the events or the deeper questions of human personality. It doesn't have to, I suppose.
Email this article
TOTAL RECALL (2012) (M)
CAST: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy, John Cho, Will Yun Lee,
PRODUCER: Toby Jaffe, Neal H. Moritz
DIRECTOR: Len Wiseman
SCRIPT: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback (short story by Philip K. Dick)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Paul Cameron
EDITOR: Christian Wagner
MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Patrick Tatopoulos
RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 23, 2012