Total Recall (2012)
★ / ★★★★
A recurring dream involving being chased by the authorities alongside a woman he believes he never met has prevented Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), a factory worker, from getting proper sleep over the past couple of weeks. Feeling depressed, he thinks that a treatment at Rekall, a company that can program memories into a person’s brain, can help him get over the nightmares if he is given an exciting or happy memory. A routine procedure prior to the treatment, however, triggers a repressed memory in unsuspecting Douglas. It turns out that he is a spy so specialized and dangerous that he is able to take down ten armed men, assigned to capture him alive, in under thirty seconds.
Inspired by Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” credit must be given to “Total Recall,” directed by Len Wiseman, for deciding not to make a carbon copy of Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 film. Instead, it opts for a more straightforward approach by focusing on delivering the action and spending less time on philosophical musings about which reality is real and which is constructed by machines. However, despite this, the film lacks drama, suspense, and memorable characters in order for the material to rise above the standard and have its own identity.
The dialogue is so flat that each time it takes a breather from the action sequences, I felt like I was watching the actors rehearsing a scene. There are moments when the performers try to compensate by overacting to little or no avail. Since there is no dimension to what they are saying, not once did I believe that there is something critical at stake. There are talks about terrorist organizations, struggle for equality, and worldwide domination–rather, what is left of it considering an international chemical warfare rendered most of the planet uninhabitable. But the screenplay by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback fails to incorporate these struggles in a thought-provoking, insightful, or entertaining way.
I enjoyed the special and visual effects. The futuristic cities are inspired by Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” in that there is a menudo of cultures plastered on neon-colored billboards as well as ethnically diverse crowds going about their businesses. I was at awe on how select buildings can possibly stand because they seem to lack support from the ground up. The best chase scenes involve Douglas running on rooftops, through skyscrapers, and inside houses. The editing matches the character’s desperation to survive so it is exciting to watch unfold, at least initially. Eventually, the chases suffer from diminishing returns because the same formula is adopted and the results are more or less the same.
“Total Recall” feels twice as long than it actually is. Although, as a remake, it takes some liberties to detach from the expected, it seems reluctant to really experiment and go wild. I enjoyed watching Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, as Douglas’ wife and partner in crime, respectively, for their physicality. I believed that their characters are not women to be messed with because they are capable of handling themselves. Their fight scene stands out but I wished there had been more chances for the two of them to release their anger onto one another. Such would not have boosted the film’s quality per se but it might have been more fun.