What is real? What is recall? These are the questions the trailer asks us as we journey through the puzzles in this supposed psychological action film. Total Recall is a remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name. It centers around a man who find himself bored with life and wanting to fill a piece of himself that he thinks is missing, he just doesn’t know what it is yet. Once strapped into a chair at an organization called “Rekall” (why they spell it that why I’m not really sure), Quaid (Colin Ferrell) is thrust into this cat and mouse escapade where people (including his wife) want him dead and where he has the skills of a secret agent. Is Quaid an agent or not? That is the big question this movie throws at us, with some fun and exciting acting sequences, while we try and piece it all together.
The best thing about the movie are the action scenes. That fact right there will give most of you comfort because this is an action movie after all. People are going to want and expect great action to get the adrenaline pumping and this movie has a lot of it. You’ll especially love it if you are a fan of Sci-Fi movies in general, because the weaponry and set pieces used for the action to take place are really breathtaking. I will admit, I did find myself a tad bored during the first half hour or so of this movie. I have no problem with dialogue or character development because all good movies need that to move forward. But in this case, the first half hour was boring because it didn’t seem like it had much going for it. The emotion is pretty vacant and the futuristic set pieces, while cool to look at, really don’t “pop” until the action takes place. In an age where everything seems to be filmed using shaky cam and often unnecessary 3D conversions, it was a real treat to see straight forward, well choreographed action stunts.
When people go into an action movie, they don’t necessarily expect the performances to be praiseworthy. I’m not looking for Oscar-calibre stuff here, just that they can fit the role and play it well. There are big stars in this movie (Colin Ferrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston), and most of them don’t go past average. The best performance out of the ensemble, to me, was Beckinsale. She creates a crazy, action-hungry character that could potentially lead her own spin-off movie if they wanted to go that route. I’m all for watching a beautiful woman wielding a gun while taking control of the situation around her any day. As for everybody else, as I said, they are average at best. Colin Farrell serves as a much better replacement to Schwarzenegger than I thought he would, but he still lacks that leading man charm that everybody looks for in their action heroes. Jessica Biel is kind of in the same boat. She plays a woman who knows the truth about Farrell’s character and tries to help him put the pieces together while completing a task at hand. For the most part she was fine, but she never did anything that made me think “wow, she is the only one who could have done that.” I feel like Scarlett Johansson or Angelina Jolie could have played the role and it would have been the exact same.
When thinking back on the movie as I sat down to write this review, I don’t think I had as much fun as I wanted to have. Sure, the action was exciting, the set pieces are well thought out and the acting certainly didn’t ruin anything. So what was it? Well, I’ve seen the original 1990 version and think that is the better one. It has a much darker tone, but has a much bigger feel and works as a better mind-bender than this one. However, I think if had not seen that one, then this one would have been a much better experience to sit through. The scenes that revolve around the tension of whether or not Quaid is in the chair back at Rekall, living his fantasy, or an actual secret agent actually seemed boring because you know the twists and turns the story is going to take before it takes them. Basically, if you plan on seeing this movie anytime soon during it’s theater run, then watch this one first. I know that sounds crazy because the original one is the better of the two, but you will have a better theater experience not knowing anything at all. Then, I would watch the original after. That way you had fun with this movie but can now appreciate the one that came before it as a better movie.
This is summer - the time when blockbusters reign supreme. Some people want the art house films, but unfortunately, they’ll have to wait a little longer. Right now, Total Recall (2012) gives any action junkie their fill of what they came for - fun summer entertainment. I enjoyed myself watching Total Recall and I really hope it finds its audience. Despite the flaws, it is a thrill ride that’s heavy on the action. Just don’t expect to remember much of it down the road.