In the not too distant future, factory worker Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) has a beautiful wife anda job that is not incredibly challenging, but keeps him occupied. Douglas, however, dreams of a bigger life, one that matters and when he visits Rekall – a company that implants false memories – he realises that his mundane life may not be as real as he thinks it is.
With all the reboots floating around lately, it is not hard to imagine why Total Recall was remade; technology has moved on allowing filmmakers to tell ever more visually spectacular stories, and Philip K. Dick’s vision of the future is outlandish and frightening enough to still be relevant today.
Colin Farrell stars as Douglas Quaid. Farrell is instantly more relatable than Arnold Schwarzenegger, and is definitely more of an ‘every man’ than his predecessor. The problem is that Farrell flourishes best in comedy, so while he is still a strong actor, this is not one of the strongest performances we have seen from him. That said, Farrell’s portrayal of the character makes Quaid likeable, and through his vulnerability and confusion, the audience immediately finds themselves rooting for him to survive.
Kate Beckinsale plays Lori, the woman who appears to be Quaid’s wife. Beckinsale is best known for her work on the Underworld franchise, so she is no stranger to action films. It is a refreshing change to see Beckinsale play a villain, and she manages well in Total Recall. Jessica Biel plays Melinda – a very different Melinda to that of the original – she sparks well with Colin Farrell, and is convincing in her role as a freedom fighter. Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy crank up the evil and the mysterious respectively, although neither has a lot of screen time in the film.
The world of Total Recall is one that we may be initially familiar with, but the film makers have taken places that the audience may be familiar with and given them a ‘futuristic’ twist. It is unlikely as to whether the world will ever look the way it is presented in the film, or if the technology will actually exist, but this is the joy of science fiction – imagining what it would be like to commute from Australia to England in a mere 17 minutes.
However, while the technology and the look of the film may be an improvement on the original film, this remake is let down by it’s script and reliance on set pieces. The script does borrow heavily from the original, but the ideas within it are so paper-thin that the audience is never challenged, and solve any mysteries fairly early on. This is a problem for a film based on a Philip K. Dick story, since the source material so is tense and involving and this film just lets it down. Some of the set pieces are a lot of fun, but there are too many of them for the audience to care after a certain point, and instead of creating tension, these just become boring.
Director Len Wiseman is no stranger to the action film either, but Total Recall lacks the heart that it needs to survive, and no amount of action sequences can make up for a lack of emotion and audience investment.
In all, Total Recall has moments of greatness, but is let down by a mediocre script and a heavy reliance on action sequences. This remake does not go any way to correcting the mistakes of the original, even though it tries incredibly hard.