Movie Review: Total Recall

Stars: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bokeem Woodbine, Bryan Cranston

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language , Running time 118 minutes, Sci-fi/Action

Compare to: Minority Report (2002), Repo Men (2010)

Being a fan of 1990’s Total Recall, it is admittedly, a little difficult to look at this film objectively and not compare it to the original. No matter what you do, the filmmakers risk “ripping off” the original, or trying too hard to seem new and different. Some things should be changed in a remake, while others don’t seem the same without those features. But that’s the difficulty of making a remake. Total Recall doesn’t suffer from coming off as a clone of Ahnuld’s, while it forgets to have as much fun as the original seemed to. Then again, a massive Austrian in the lead role is a unique aspect you only get with one actor.

Does this Recall stand on it’s own? Can a remake? I find it tough to say, but sure. This movie is likable. It’s fast, dynamic, and keeps your mind wondering what kind of twist they might introduce, be it completely new or a little familiar. It is amazing? Nah.

Douglas Quaid (Farrell) is a factory worker who is just…tired of everything. His job isn’t bad, his wife (Beckinsale) is supportive, his friend (Woodbine) helps keep him in check. But none of it is enough. It seems to Quaid that he’s missing something in his life, he just can’t figure out what that something is. So what do you do in the future when you want something you can’t have? You go to Rekall, the place where fake memories are implanted so you can remember having done anything you’ve ever wanted to do- be a rockstar, visit space… become a spy. Quaid chooses spy only to experience a malfunction in the process and be told he actually is a spy. Is he really? Did Rekall awaken erased memories? Or maybe it messed with Quaid’s brain, making him go crazy. Or is it all Rekall, Quaid still strapped to a chair?

The description would be the same as if I were describing the original, but the differences lie in the style and execution of said story. I wouldn’t bother giving away every difference between the two, and I wouldn’t want to give away every secret, but several differences were interesting choices for a remake. One being that Michael Ironside’s character of Richter, right hand man to the evil Cohaagen, is now gone. Instead, the character of Lori, (then played by Sharon Stone) is now given a much more fleshed out role and is portrayed by Beckinsale, who seems completely comfortable playing the part of wife one moment, then vicious killer the next. She steals the show as far as I’m concerned, and I’m not even talking about her looks. While Stone had her couple of scenes then, Beckinsale is a constant throughout the film, giving us the feeling her character just can’t die. I guess that’s how it works when you’re married to the director.

So while Beckinsale’s character can’t seem to die, that’s not a problem for any of the other characters either because no matter how many rounds of ammunition are pumped at Farrell and Biel, they cannot be touched. Robots are introduced as henchmen, in keeping with the futuristic theme as well as the PG-13 rating. And for the sheer number of ways these robots are dismantled and destroyed while trying to capture Farrell, they would’ve definitely needed to stay away from human minions. A scene of crazily shifting elevators will have you confused as to what’s going on while enjoying the spectacle of humans constantly near death and robots “dying” left and right.

There are a number of good actors here that do well with the small parts they’re given, but the answer is in the question, and they’re not given much. From the moment Bryan Cranston appears, knowing who he is and not the character will still lead you to believe he’s a villain. It would be nice to see him in a role other than the unlikable jerk for once. He’s good at it and he does well in this too, but there just seems to be more than the roles he plays. Bill Nighy shows up for all of five minutes, reuniting with his Underworld director who made him known to American audiences in 2003. John Cho of Harold and Kumar fame shows up briefly as the Rekall agent. The scene with him in it is one of the more interesting ones, touching on the idea of Rekall itself; is an idea that isn’t real worth having at all, when it feels just the same? I don’t like Harold and Kumar, but I’ve always liked Cho, him doing good here also.

The problem with this movie is, above all else, the pacing. As soon as we see Quaid, he’s unhappy. He wakes up, goes to work, goes to a bar, all the while talking about being unhappy. Right after this, he goes to Rekall, and the action ensues. We’re never really given much time to soak everything in, the world Quaid lives in, why he’s unhappy, or letting us relate to the feeling of tediousness and droll routine we all feel at some point in our lives. Instead it’s more “Life sucks, don’t it?” BANG BANG BANG! I could use a little more substance rather than filler. I wanted to see a little more of the Blade Runner-esque world, but we’re rushed as though director Wiseman is the little kid who wants to show you how to play the video game by letting you play for ten seconds before taking it back and saying “Here, I’ll show you how to do it.”

Quick, energetic, loud and explosive, this movie’s weaknesses are it’s strengths as well. But the worst part? No Johnny Cab.

Grade: C+

2 Responses to “Movie Review: Total Recall”

  1. I really don’t even know if I want to see it now. I probably will but I HATE those actors and I’m afraid I’ll just keep thinking, “the original is better”. I like Bryan Cranston though, who does play a likeable guy in Breaking Bad (well, I liked his character).

    • Taylor Says:

      If you want to hate it, you will. of course the original is better, but just think of it as a new car compared to your first, whatever that means to you. Yeah, Cranston is cool. Loved him in Driver.


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