The new Total Recall movie, starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel and directed by Len Wiseman, is a loose remake of the 1990 movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. And in turn that was loosely based on the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”.
War has caused most of the land mass to be completely useless for life. There are really only two places left that are inhabitable, Europe, which is now the United Federation of Britain and is where all the wealthy people live and Australia, which is now called the Colony. Here is where Doug, played by Colin Farrell, lives with his wife Lori, played by Kate Beckinsale. He is working a boring factory job that he has to travel through the center of the Earth to get to in a process called the Fall. The job has no upward mobility and he is plagued by nightmares while he sleeps. Life is getting to him. Wanting something to relieve the anxiety he goes to a place called Rekall. Here they can create memories designed on your fantasies. Choosing the secret agent option, they start the process and find that his mind has already had an implanted memory, soon police bust in and before he can realize it, Doug takes out all the cops. Soon, he is escaping and starts the run to find out who he really is, who the girl in his nightmares is, and whether this is even real, or just part of the Rekall experience.
The set design is gorgeous. Seeing the influence of movies like Metropolis and Blade Runner and the gritty used future appeal of artist Ralph McQuarrie, the world, especially the Colony, feels like Favelas of Brazil pushed 100 years in the future. Coupled against the tech of the world, it helps to ground the CGI and helps to pull you into the action.
Kate Beckinsale is a force. Rarely have we seen a woman get to be frankly an amazing villain. Normally there is a drive to temper the evil doings of a female character, she is doing it because she was wronged (Kill Bill) or because she was brainwashed (GI Joe), or because she just loved the man who is the real villain so much she just had to in order to please him, (vast majority of these characters). Here she is playing a character with a ruthless focus on completing her objective; it doesn’t even have to match her orders from her superior.
Which takes us to the actual action. The fights scenes are well done, especially between Biel and Beckinsale. It is easy to follow, realistic for the world they are in, and well shot. The first action scene with Colin Farrell was very entertaining to watch. Though it had some issues where it dragged a little, the action overall was good.
There is not as much ambiguity to the movie as I was hoping for concerning whether it was all Rekall or not. Though played with a little bit, it is such a great concept and it wasn’t as explored as it could have been. The focus was more on the rabbit hole that is Hauser’s mind and all manipulations of it. It works for the movie, but I would have preferred a little more vagueness.
Bryan Cranston is underutilized. He could have been much more ruthless but that would have meant more time on screen for character development, which was lacking. He does do a fine job with what he is given; I just wanted him given more.
The music and costumes were okay, but nothing special. And the designs for the synthetics seemed a bit stale.
If you are looking for a shot by shot remake, this is not for you. They have taken it in a different direction. It still has the overarching flavor of the original and the graphics are obviously much better.
I don’t have as much affection for the original as many people I know, so I might have been a bit more opened minded to the remake. They managed to make a good movie that is easy to follow and has some good action pieces in it.
If you are looking to see some fun fighting and things blow up, this is a good late summer movie to enjoy. It gets a 2.5 out of 4.