‘Total Recall’ ironically forgettable
Directed by Len Wiseman
Written by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback
Taken on its own terms, Total Recall is a passable but not particularly dazzling sci-fi action film that survives almost entirely because its cast isn’t unpleasant to watch. But it’s hard to take this remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle on its own terms. In the early going, Total Recall makes somewhat half-hearted references to the Paul Verhoeven film (if, say, you’re hoping for a certain three-breasted lady to make an appearance, you’re in luck!), as if to placate its fans. Eventually, the film attempts to take the weight of the original off its shoulders but still never manages to be more than merely tolerable.
Colin Farrell plays Douglas Quaid, a factory worker living in the Colony, formerly Australia. Earth, near the end of the 21st century, has been so ravaged by chemical warfare that only the Colony and the United Federation of Britain are livable; people on the Colony travel to the United Federation of Britain to work mundane jobs and then go back to their low-class, squalid lives. Douglas is tired of his humdrum existence and chooses to visit Rekall, which purports to implant memories of fantasies people most desire. Plagued by dreams, Douglas chooses to live the life of a secret agent…or does he? As soon as he’s implanted with the secret-agent fantasy, Douglas is beset upon by federal police, revolutionaries led by the beautiful woman from his dreams (Jessica Biel), and a murderous cop who apparently pretended to be his wife (Kate Beckinsale). Is Douglas just an average Joe, or has he always been a government spy?
Though there are some major cosmetic differences—let’s just say you shouldn’t hope Douglas will visit Mars at any point this time around—much of the new Total Recall hits the same beats as the 1990 version. Both films, based on “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick, toy with the notion of reality versus fantasy, but director Len Wiseman and screenwriters Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback are far less ambiguous in this film. Such mystery isn’t necessary for Total Recall to succeed, but the story’s power feels a bit diminished. By the end of the film, you may wonder what the point of Douglas going to Rekall was to begin with, aside from a near-pointless MacGuffin.