Film of the Week: Total Recall

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Original Film
Len Wiseman (director)
Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy
Running time

Maybe I’m getting less critical as I get older and world-weary. If an undiscovered Tarkovsky film were found in a vault I’d care very much indeed, but these days I’m just as happy to noisily slurp fanta up my nostrils and use a JCB to shove popcorn down my throat whilst cheering on exploding spaceships. Some films are meant to be shameless daft fun. So with that in mind, I’m going to say it: I really enjoyed this film.

The awful remake of Total Recall is actually an awful lot of fun.

Yes, yes I know, few of the cast can act and let's face it, the dialogue is shocking. It could have and probably should have been delivered exclusively by Michael York in Basil Exposition mode from Austin Powers. And all right, I’ll admit quite a few moments don’t actually make any sense. But who cares – the zero gravity bulletfest was awesome!

Now for some respectful contemplation and perhaps even a minute of silence for Paul Verhoeven’s original dystopian sci-fi schlockfest. That Mars-bound-Arnie-infested bludgeon of a movie really is, in my opinion, a piece of B-movie crap cranked up to A- status thanks to the polishing capabilities of the director’s sarcastic European wit, his playful disrespect for American heroism and general anti-corporate bite.

The basic premise of both, based loosely on a Philip K Dick story 'We can remember it for you wholesale,' is in itself a brilliant concept about identity and the nature of the self delivered long before the Wachowski brothers dreamt of The Matrix. But the Arnie version was let down by, well, Arnie along with visual effects of variable quality.

So once again, some time in the future, the world is overcrowded. The UK has become the United Federation of Britain and due to the population squeeze, all the factory workers that keep the economy rolling live in The Colony, also known as ‘Australia’. The workers commute daily through a vast high-speed tunnel that passes right by the earth’s core. Silly, isn’t it?

Colin Farrell is one such beehive drone, lazily questioning his meaningless 9-to-5 existence with a colleague on the morning commute, the first of many scenes in which there is no onscreen chemistry between the people in the frame.

Although he appears to have a loving wife, he can't shake those repetitive nightmares in which he has a much more exciting and dangerous existence. So he goes to ‘Rekall’ to re-programme his mind with some fun fake memories as a James Bond-esque spy. But wouldn’t you know it, fantasy and reality suddenly and inconveniently merge. He really is a super assassin covert double agent working perhaps for the state and the resistance – or is he?

And he’s away running across rooftops being fired on by armed robots. Or is he? Is it just all part of the fantasy? I have no idea. Pass me a biscuit. I don’t care, it looks great.

Yes, leave your critical faculties at the door folks; this film is designed to be looked at and heard and nothing else and on that level it works supremely. The art direction, urban landscapes, hardware design and visual effects are jaw-dropping. It’s all an unoriginal hybrid of Blade Runner, Minority Report, The Fifth Element and Star Wars. You name it; it’s in there. But my god, it looks good.

There’s a few great action sequences, too – a terrific flying car chase, a three-way fight inside a lift and the aforementioned zero gravity shootout which I wish had gone on for ten minutes. If they’d delivered better acting from a better cast with a more thoughtful plot then this would probably be a very good film, but if you’re a teen geek male in reality or in spirit, you’ll be in celluloid heaven.