Recalling Visual Clues

Total Recall

Farrell losing a sense of reality

The 21st century version of the sci-fi action thriller Total Recall is another cinematic retelling of a Philip K. Dick story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, following on from Blade Runner (1982), Minority Report (2002), Paycheck (2003), Next (2007) and  The Adjustment Bureau (2011) and this time features Colin Farrell in the lead role of Douglas Quaid aka Cole Hauser a role first made famous by Arnold Schwarzeneggar in the original Paul Verhoeven garish version of a Mars set Total Recall released in 1990 featuring the voluptuous Sharon Stone as Lori and Rachel Ticotin as Melina.

Arnie's version

In this version of Total Recall, directed by Len Wiseman, the earth is mostly uninhabitable through devastating chemical warfare leaving only the United Federation of Britain (sections of the former UK) and The Colony (known now as Australia). Workers from the Colony are transported via a rapid underground train, a revolutionized Eurostar to the UFB an overpopulated simulacrum of late 21st century London where they work on production lines producing Synthetics.

On the journey the hero Douglas Quaid is reading Ian Fleming’s novel The Spy Who Loved Me, a visual clue to how the rest of the film turns out. As is happens Douglas’s charming yet lethal wife Lori played by the sexy Kate Beckinsale is not who she appears to be and through an adventure which ignites when Douglas decides to give Rekall a try to break out of his industrial existence. Rekall is a drug induced manufactured memory enhancer whereby memories can be implanted into a person’s frontal lobe and people can cherish memories based on fabricated experiences.

Total Recall for the first 45 minutes is absolutely thrilling with lots of action and stunning production values with Wiseman clearly influenced by the iconic Blade Runner and similar sci-fi films with large awe-inspiring sets channeling a gritty version of I, Robot and of course Minority Report. The best scene is the chase sequence in the UFB with Farrell and Jessica Biel as Melina a fellow Colony freedom fighter who handles a fantastic uber-hovercraft on a high-tech multi-layered speedway which makes the M25 look like Noddy’s picnic. Bryan Cranston appears as the villain Cohaagen and Bill Nighy as the mysterious post-nuclear freedom fighter Matthias.

Where this version of Total Recall fails is the lack of character development and backstory which is made up for by the endless action sequences which detract from making Total Recall as brilliant and thought provoking as Blade Runner was 30 years ago. The film appears forced in places and action takes precedence over plot in a version of reality which could have done with more measured virtual clues and less bullets. See Total Recall if you are a hardcore Sci-Fi fan and don’t compare it to Paul Verhoeven’s garish and sensational 1990 version especially if viewers are dedicated fans of Philip K. Dick’s cinematized tales dealing with altered reality, memory and virtual personalities.

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