Director: Len Wiseman
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston
Running Time: 118 mins
Release: 29th August
Take one cult classic, strip out almost everything that made it so beloved, pump it full of modern Sci-Fi action circuitry and what do you get? Surprisingly, an enjoyable and kinetic reimagining that succeeds on its own merits without the crutch of nostalgia.
World War III has toasted the earth, leaving Great Britain and Australia the only bits left you wouldn’t scrape into the bin (though they’re both seemingly populated entirely by Americans so maybe just chuck the slice and try again?). Douglas Quaid (Farrell) is discontented with his—frankly awesome sounding—job making robots so he takes a trip to Rekall, a neural wholesaler who’ll pump your brains with happy memories, as long as you don’t pick one you’ve actually lived. Quaid’s seemingly innocent desire for memories of a sexy secret agent lifestyle backfire when Rekall detects that he is, in fact, a sexy secret agent. Suddenly the whole world—including his doting wife turned femme fatale, played by Kate Beckinsale—is out to get Quaid, who is tossed into a quest to put his mind back together and discover who he really is.
From the moment Quaid straps in for the hot thought injection, Total Recall accelerates, and rarely eases up until the credits roll. Sweating momentum in terms of both story and action, the film is constantly moving forward, pushing on through a dazzling alternate future, where giant tunnels transport millions through the centre of the earth, memory is a commodity, and dubstep is somehow still what the cool kids listen to. The action itself can be a little clunky, though iffy beats like a forgettable hover car chase are outshone by anti gravity gun fights and Quaid’s rediscovery of his super spy skills.
Once the dust has cleared and Quaid gets most of the answers he’s looking for—about half way through—the film loosens its grip and settles into a fairly generic man vs. the machine tale. The notion that it may all be happening in his mind is a fairly integral part of Verhoven’s original, and this version could have benefitted from leaning even heavier into that concept. Instead it is only briefly touched upon, leaving only the most Charile-Kaufmanesque of audience members with any doubt.
Farrell makes for a predictably convincing action lead, hunted by Beckinsale’s sultry sinister spouse. Biel is something of a non entity as Quaid’s forgotten love, though she sure looks pretty. Like the toy in a box of Frosties, Cranston’s arrival is always a delight, though he’s hardly setting the screen on fire as warmongering bureaucrat Cohagen. And apparently Bill Nighy is in this film, though blink and you’ll miss him.
Constantly fun, occasionally thrilling, this is a visual spectacle deserving of the big screen. Set aside your revisionist reverence for the original, and the thematic irony of this remake, and you may just walk away with fond memories of Total Recall.