Total Recall – 2012
Director Len Wiseman
Starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsdale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy, Dylan Scott Smith, Bokeem Woodbine,
Screenplay Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback, based on the original script by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett based on the story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick
“If I’m not me, then who the hell am I?”
For everyone that has “a long commute for a shit job,” Total Recall sounds like a good idea. Len Wiseman has done a good job making the second of what undoubtedly will be many re-imaginings of the original Philip K. Dick. As Carl Hauser / Doug Quaid, it’s kind of hard to believe that Farrell could over be a working stiff, even with preprogrammed memories. His fake wife, Lori (played charmingly by Beckinsdale), is right to question his intelligence on buying it all. (They even have the temerity to present us with Obama money). Once one gets past that with a willing suspension of disbelief, the story moves smoothly, even as he decimates terminator sentries that look like storm troopers, presumably with his bare hands. We can buy this, of course, because he spent six weeks that seemed like an eternity building them.
What’s harder to buy is the idea of Jessica Beal as any sort of action star, even in the future. This is definitely a personal choice, but her presence is not enough to turn my allegiances. Her acting ability is somewhere between Erin Gray from Buck Rogers and Halle Berry in just about anything. Oh, and Gray is the upside here. Biel plays the same character in just about everything.
It is fun watching Beckinsdale, however. She marches through the film, showing a mastery of every situation. She gets to work with Wiseman a lot, since they are married. They know how to get the most out of one another. Taking a tangent from Stone’s groundbreaking portrayal in the original, she completely owns every scene she is in and Wiseman smartly keeps her in it much longer than Stone.
Bill Nighy is not used enough to leave an impression. Bryan Cranston employs skills heretofore unseen. The fake hair is not quite enough to put him in Ronny Cox territory, but he is serviceable.
Farrell is more believable but not nearly as fun as Arnold. While both play stupid very well, Farrell has In Bruges to fall back on. That performance is ten times anything you will see here. We aren’t going for Oscar levels here, though.
Wiseman’s true gift in this version of Total Recall is that the effects are about as realistic as one can make a film in this context. There are good scenes, like the early stages of the chase, when the camera pans back and we see a vista with two people jumping from platform to platform, guns blazing. It is surrounded by movement of the city, and it looks better than anything Lucas did in the Star Wars prequels.
In the end, this movie is fun, but not necessary, and I am sure we will be saying this about the next time they re-do it. If you like the principals or want to see some well done effects, then rent it. If not, you are not missing anything special.
(*** out of *****)