Total Recall

Dir: Len Wiseman
Star: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston

This is really weird. The first half of this is a surprisingly-good remake of the 90's semi-classic, that manages to pay tribute to the original (three-breasted hooker, arm severance, etc.) while adding its own spins to the original. Mars, for example, doesn't figure into things at all: the future here has two Earth-bound nations, the United Federation of Britain, and the Colony, which is what was formerly known as Australia. A tunnel through the centre of the Earth, known as 'The Fall', links the two, with workers from the Colony travelling to the UFB. However, the leader of the UFB, Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen (Cranston), is casting envious eyes on the Colony, and is staging terrorist atrocities to justify an invasion. The only thing standing between Cohagen and his goal is the resistance leader Matthias Lair - so, just as in the Arnie movie, he puts trusted agent Doug Quaid (Farrell) undercover; so deep, in fact, Quaid doesn't know it and thinks he's an mechanic, happily married to Lori (Beckinsale). Or is he?

Wiseman's previous film was the first PG-13 Die Hard. There's a similar toning-down here, but you can't deny that twenty years have led to massive improvements on special effects - an area in which the old movie now does seem dated - and visually, this is a treat, probably more inspired by Blade Runner than anything. There are some great chase sequences, Farrell does the limited acting required acceptably (let's face it, the role requires exactly one expression: "confused") and I enjoyed how Lori's character was built up beyond the minor role played in the original by Sharon Stone, into Quaid's main pursuer - Michael Ironside, previously. Perhaps the director being Mr. Beckinsale helped, though the two worked before on Underworld, and there are a few moments where we expected Lori to do the Selene three-point landing thing. Unfortunately, the film completely falls apart as things proceed, with an astonishing lack of logic, even in the director's cut we watched (which runs 15 mins longer than the theatrical). Cohaagen's behaviour is inexplicable, except for plot reasons, while Quaid appears nearly telepathic in acquiring information. That whirring sound is Philip K. Dick, spinning in his grave.

[November 2012]

Colin out for a hero
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