Total Recall (2012)
“Real? or Dream?”
Director: Len Wiseman
Cast: Colin Farrell, Bokeem Woodfine, Bryan Cranston
Synopsis: A factory worker, Douglas Quaid, begins to suspect that he is a spy after visiting Rekall – a company that provides its clients with implanted fake memories of a life they would like to have led – goes wrong and he finds himself on the run.
The over-rated Len Wiseman’s remake of the 1990 Total Recall encapsulates everything that’s wrong with present-day Hollywood. Loud and brash, it caters only to the carefully identified demographic likely to provide it with the greatest profit, but pays no heed to plot or characterisation or quality of any description. Why bother with such irritants — which require no small measure of imagination and talent — when we can fill the screen with computer-generated cityscapes and gigantic explosions? Noise and bright lights — that’s where more than 120 years of cinema history has brought us…
Arnold Schwarzenegger is replaced by Colin Farrell (London Boulevard, Saving Mr. Banks) as Doug Quaid, a blue collar worker toiling in a heavily industrialised future, the look of which is clearly inspired by Blade Runner. Most of the world has been decimated by chemical warfare, with only the United Federation of Britain and The Colony (formerly Australia) capable of supporting life. Each day, Quaid and his buddy, Harry (Bokeem Woodbine — Devil) travel from The Colony to the UFB via The Fall, a high-speed gravity elevator which journeys through the Earth’s core. Quaid is haunted by dreams in which he and a female companion (Jessica Biel) are fleeing under fire from the very cyber-cops he makes each day. Perhaps understandably, while Quaid discloses most of the contents of this dream to his wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale – Contraband), he neglects to mention this mysterious female companion.
Quaid harbours a low-key dissatisfaction with his life which leads him to visit Rekall, a company which implants fake memories in the minds of its clients, but before the procedure can be completed, the place is stormed by cyber-cops, most of whom Quaid instinctively blows away. Making his escape, Quaid heads for home, but when he tells Lori about what has just happened, rather than receiving the concerned sympathy he probably expected, his wife strenuously attempts to murder him. Barely escaping with his life, Quaid goes on the run as he struggles to unlock the secrets in his mind which will disclose his true identity.
As far as plot goes, that’s about it — the rest of the movie is just one long chase. Quaid’s memory loss is tied in with a plot by UFB Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston — Saving Private Ryan), but by the time we get to that revelation, the whole sorry mess has already been so ineptly mishandled that we don’t really care. The constant barrage of action not only wears thin quickly, it also becomes extremely boring. Quaid isn’t going to die — we all know that — but he’s such a colourless character that whether he dies or not is of no concern to anyone watching. The story takes place in Britain about 80 years from now, but apart from the brief hazy sight of Big Ben in the background of one shot, it might as well be on Mars, the planet which provided the location for Paul Verhoeven’s vastly superior effort. It’s ironic in a way that technological advances mean that some movies are once more made primarily in the studio. Location shooting was once a big selling point for movies after the threat of TV meant they had to offer something different. Now actors don’t even get to act on stage sets, they simply run around in front of a giant green screen on which fantastic images are later generated by a computer. Talk about soulless.
Total Recall is a brash, noisy abomination of a movie with a boring storyline, bland performances, and uninspired direction.