TOTAL RECALL
Author: JoAnne Hyde
August 3, 2012

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SYNOPSIS: 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.

You’ll most certainly experience déjà vu while watching Total Recall, and not just because it’s a remake of the 1990 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, it’s quite different from the original. However, it rips off just about every popular scyfy film since the 1970’s. You’ll see echoes of Star Wars, Blade Runner, Terminator, The Fifth Element, Minority Report, and probably more. As far as differences in this new visualization of Total Recall, you’ll find absolutely no humor. There’s also no Mars colony, no mutants, and no aliens. There are flying cars, but no johnny cabs.

The beginning of the film informs us, via printed word, that in the last part of the 21st century, chemical warfare has made the earth uninhabitable except for two places – The United Federation of Britain and The Colony. The UFB contains the privileged, and the Colony is home to the working poor and exploited. The most inventive part of the film is The Fall – a transport that travels through the Earth’s core from The Colony to the UFB to bring the workers who labor in factories that produce mainly robot-type soldiers/enforcers. By the way, this trip only takes 17 minutes. Here’s my first problem with the story: any culture that could produce such an advanced transport could certainly figure out how to fix the atmosphere in the rest of the world. That would mean no plot, though, since it turns out that the leader of the UFB, Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), has a secret agenda to destroy the population of The Colony to get more land for the UFB. Well, enough about that.

The main character is still a guy named Douglas Quaid (later known as Hauser) who works in one of the UFB factories, reads old James Bond novels, and is dissatisfied by his lot in life. Colin Farrel plays Quaid/Hauser who’s married to Lori (Kate Beckinsale). They look a lot better than anyone else who lives in The Colony. In fact, that’s what these two roles mainly require -- looking good while running, jumping, shooting, blowing up stuff, and performing lots of choreographed martial arts fighting. As the film opens, Quaid is having nightmares every night that include running away from some powerful, unknown foe with a beautiful woman (Jessica Biel). He always wakes up, in a cold sweat, just as it appears that they do not escape. Quaid suspects that these dreams mean something, and they just add to his dissatisfaction with his life. He has a bff who works with him, Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), to whom he confesses he’s thinking going to a service, Rekall which creates virtual memories so that you can get some relief from your real life. Harry, of course, advises against this, but Quaid goes anyway. As the process begins, something goes wrong, and it appears that Quaid really is the international spy he dreamed of being. Suddenly, everyone he knows is different. His wife turns out to be an agent who keeps tabs on him through their fake marriage. She really wants to kill him. It turns out that she works for Cohaagen. I’m guessing that Beckingsale’s expanded role in this version is due to the fact that her husband is the director. His friend Harry, by the way, seems to be working for the UFB as well. As for the beautiful dream woman, that turns out to be Melina (Biel) who works for the resistance headed up by a shadowy figure named Matthias.

As in the first film, you’re never really sure whether Quaid’s “reality” is real or virtual. The majority of the plot involves Quaid trying to figure out who he really is since he’s being told that he’s really someone named Hauser, a ruthless operative for Cohaagen . There’s no need to evaluate the acting in the film since there’s really none required. The actors spend most of the time involved in extreme, physical activity. Farrell’s main job is to look confused, Beckingsale’s is to look pissed off, and Biel’s is to look sympathetic. They all look beautiful! The film is striking visually, even though it’s mainly derivative of other films. As far as the genre goes, the film is okay. If you’re a fan of the original, you may be frustrated by this version. There’s an inherent problem with the remake of a successful film: either it’s too similar to the original, or it’s too different in an attempt to be “original”. This film falls into the latter category.

GRADE: C-

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