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The human mind is a complex and fascinating thing, it’s too bad this reboot of Total Recall dumbs it down. The movie is slick and stylish, but ironically this film that is so focused on human memory is forgettable.
The film starts off with an info graphic where we learn that most of the planet is uninhabitable except for England and Australia, (which has been rechristened as “The Colony.”) The Colony is basically a slum, people of all cultures are packed together tightly and seen as lesser than those who live in England. The Colonists use The Fall, an airport from hell that shoots through the Earth so they can get to work in England.
Then the film opens with Doug (Colin Ferrell), a regular joe with a regular job, dissatisfied with his ordinary life in the Colony. He wants the wild life he has in his dreams. And after a particularly bad day at work, Doug goes to Total Rekall, a place that implants fake memories into people’s minds.
Unfortunately for Doug, that’s when things go haywire. It turns out his dreams are real and he’s a spy! Oh, and his wife (Kate Beckinsale) was assigned to watch over him. Ridiculous action sequences and plot holes follow. The filmmakers focus so much on messing with the audience’s mind that they forget to tell a good story and create anything original.
Admittedly, a movie that has a core issue of identity and character will have problems connecting the characters to the audience. However, it’s almost as though the filmmakers don’t try. There were a number of ways they could have overcome this, for example, hiring up and coming actors rather than established ones would have helped. Instead of thinking “Run, Doug/Hauser, run!” we instead think, “Run, Collin Farrell, run!” which is distracting. This is true for the other actors as well.
Had the film not taken itself so seriously and been a fun sci-fi romp about people’s brains, this movie could have been fantastic. Had the studio spent more money on screenwriters, it could have been better. Had the studio hired unfamiliar actors, the film could have improved.
However, judging a film on what it could have been is counterproductive and usually disheartening. Total Recall doesn’t work as a film. It’s bloated, boring, confusing and takes itself too seriously.
The few bright spots were the spectacular visuals and John Cho’s brief performance as McClane, a man who implants memories.
Beckinsale does her best as a villain, and she certainly looks the part, however, she’s not really given much to do. Ferrell, too, doesn’t have much to work with. Nor do he and Jessica Biel have any sort of chemistry, it’s almost painful to watch them on screen. The characters are all rather flat and stereotypical. Any sci-fi fan can predict what will happen and when. There are no surprises here.
Total Recall had a lot of potential to discuss issues of power, class, race in addition to the human mind and how it remembers things. Unfortunately, it does none of these things.