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MOVIE REVIEW: Total Recall (2012)

A great popcorn entertainment to enjoy the spectacle that is one possible future. With sweet action and decent story, you may forget all about that early 90s version of... what were we talking about?

Bad Memory

RATED: ★ ★ ★ buckets | WORTH: Matinee or DVD

Rated: PG-13 Intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity and language.

 

Release Date: August 3, 2012
Runtime:  1 hour 49 minutes

Director: Len Wiseman
Writers: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback, Ronald Shusett, Dan O'Bannon, Jon Povil, based on the short story 'We Can Remember It for You Wholesale' by Philip K. Dick
Cast:  Colin Ferrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel,Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy, John Cho

SYNOPSIS: Factory work Douglas Quaid begins to question the reality of his life after a visit to memory inducing company ReKall goes awry and he finds himself on the road from both people he thought he knew and unknown shadowy government agents.

REVIEW: Underworld series writer and Underworld and Underworld: Evolutiondirector Len Wiseman tries to remember what is real and what is illusion with a sci-fi remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger Total Recall based on the short story 'We Can Remember It for You Wholesale' by cult sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick. Forsaking a trip to Mars for locales for terrestrial, Kurt Wimmer (Salt) and Matt Bomback (Unstoppable) write a screenplay based on the original screen story by Ronald Shusett and Dan O'Bannon (Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem), and Sliders series writer Jon Povil. Can Colin Ferrell erase the memory of the Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie vehicle and replace it with something completely different?

In a world of the late 21st Century, the planet has been ravaged by over population and global chemical warfare. Years later, the only inhabitable regions of the earth are on the opposite sides of the globe. The United Federation of Britain stands as the technological and economical center while the Colony (Australia) serves as the source for cheap labor for the UFB. Joining the two regions is a tunneled transport called The Fall, a massive subway rail that runs through the center of the earth itself. Douglas Quaid (Colin Ferrell,Horrible Bosses) lives with his wife Lori Quaid (Kate Beckinsale, Underworld: Awakening) in the Colony, Douglas taking the 17 minute Fall trip through the planet to work on the Synthetics assembly line with his friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine, Devil) in the UFB. Working as hard as he can to get ahead on the job, Doug still finds that he is missing something. With nightmares of a hard fought escape with a beautiful woman, Doug is restless and unsure of himself. Doug takes a trip to ReKall, a business that can implant realistic memories of vacations, or life as a wealthy or powerful individual. But just as the technician McClane (John Cho, American Reunion) starts the ReKall implant process, something goes awry and armed law enforcement tactical team burst in to apprehend Douglas. Escaping the situation by using unknown combat skills against the soldiers, Doug finds that he is unsure of his true memories as his wife, friends, and government turns against him in a expansive plot of UFB government led by Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston, Rock of Ages) against the rebellion led by Matthias (Bill Nighy, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Only the woman from his nightmares, Melina (Jessica Biel, New Year's Eve), seems to be the only one that Doug can trust. Or can he? 

Cool for its time, Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall was a film I took in at a summer drive-in theater. But, to be honest, aside from the practical visual effects and the novelty of the story, I really did not love the original effort. I just couldn't come to grasp the ancient terraforming mechanics on the red surface of Mars. Why did the original Douglas Quaid's hand fit the alien technology? Maybe another viewing of the original is in order. Maybe not. All I found that the bulging eyes scene at the end of the film was more comical than anything else.

All that being said, we need to look at what Colin Ferrell and crew bring to this sci-fi remake. Many wonder - as with many remakes - is Total Recall (2012) a necessary film? I think that Wommer and Bomback do a fine job crafting a completely different tale based on the same memory wiping concept from Philip K. Dick and the original screenwriting team. Keeping the action firmly on Earth, instead of traveling to the Red Planet of Mars, this version creates a world on the brink of collapse with precious resources encapsulated in two overpopulated regions of the planet. Wommer, Bomback, and director The Colony is a bottom-feeding Asian Fusion society with a Blade Runner flair, while the UFB is a high-rising magnetic sky rail utopia more similar to I, Robot and Minority Report. The original film would never have thought to use as much touch technology as we are treated to in the remake. It is amazing what real  technology can do on the limits of science fiction technology. And with any good remake, it is important to pay homage to the original - spending one moment with a well-endowed working girl and another with a red-headed traveler.

The action is fierce and fast throughout. From the opening dream sequence where Doug and Melina shoot their way out of a soldier infested compound, to the epic Synthetics shootout at the end, Total Recall jams as much firepower and fist power into its 109 minutes. Colin Ferrell shows that he has the ability to be an action star if he wanted to be and Kate Beckinsale reinforces her status as a true femme fatale powerhouse. The fight choreography alone is worth the price of admission. Ferrell and Beckinsale's hand-to-hand close-quartered fights and rooftop chases are excellent. Add in magnetic roadway and claustrophobic cubed elevator pursuits with bullet ricochets and you have perfect popcorn entertainment.

Even though the story is varied enough to offer many brand new lot angles, the concept of false memories or loss of memories have become common place. From memory-shackled films like Memento, to amnesiac special agents in the form of The Bourne Identity, to the original Total Recall, moviegoers have become fairly savvy about affairs of the mind. The remake does lose a couple points because of the fact of familiarity with the premise, even though director Wiseman takes the film in a different direction.

Visually impressive, Total Recall makes great use of anamorphic camera lens work to add more life into each scene. J.J. Abrams did a great job with the same technique in the Star Trek reboot/prequel/sequel. The horizontal light trails, coupled with top-notched modeling, CGI, and matte work, paints a complete picture of the bleak post-global war society.

Total Recall is great popcorn entertainment, allowing you to simply enjoy the spectacle that is one possible future. If you are old enough to remember the original film, you will recall some of what will probably come about. Filled with sweet action and a decent story, you may forget all about that early 90s version of... what were we talking about again?

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