Your mileage from Total Recall will vary with how poorly you remember the details of the original. The better you recall, the lesser this film will feel.
This update, of course, is a remake of the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi thriller of the same name from 1990, which engaged the mind on multiple levels with its cerebrum teasing plot, imaginative setting and fine special effects. Thus, it is unfortunate that this needless update, starring dark-haired Irish heartthrob Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid, doesn’t quite engage the brain as much as it numbs it.
Quaid, the film’s main character, is an unhappy factory worker, who is plagued by cryptic dreams and frustrated with his meaningless life. He is drawn to Rekall, a company that provides entertainment by implanting fantasies into its clients’ minds as artificial memories. After being warned that preexisting memories will conflict with implanted ones, Quaid is drawn to a ‘secret agent’ fantasy. Except, during the implant process, the fantasy is interrupted by government agents who claim that Quaid is an actual spy.
At this point the film has the opportunity to tease the audience with the tantalising question of whether Quaid is actually a spy or is still sitting in the chair at Rekall living out his fantasy. Regrettably, the film leaves this plot thread fairly under-utilised, although it does feature one fantastic brain-teasing sequence.
After Quaid escapes the government agents and rushes home, he is attacked by his gorgeous wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) who claims to be an undercover agent posing as his spouse. From here, he makes his escape dodging government agents, led by Lori, as the mysterious plot unravels. While the action quickly outstays its welcome, some of the visuals here are interesting, with some cool sci-fi elements. At this point, Quaid meets the beautiful resistance agent Melina (Jessica Biel), with whom he supposedly has a romantic history.
But while being chased by not one but two drop dead gorgeous women would be a dream for most men, Quaid’s world transforms into a nightmare. Ultimately, Quaid struggles with his own identity and with what he should make a part of his memory. I suspect that viewers of this film should have no such problem though, as the bad memory of this unnecessary remake is quite likely to slip away on its own.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, September 9th, 2012.