Total Recall (2012) Movie Review

The 2012 version of Total Recall begins with Colin Farrell bloodied and beaten lying on the floor of a room that quickly becomes a barrage of flashing lights and gunshots – then suddenly the movie is over. This movie does not let up the action to the point where several times during the film I was wishing for a blank screen just so I could recapitulate what I'd just seen. And before you get too deep into what everything means, whether or not everything is real or if it's all just one science fiction dream as the Schwarzenegger version very well may have been, you'll find that you've got a smorgasboard of visual stimulants that you'll not only want to see again – you'll want to own it all too.

This story started with author Philip K Dick's "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale", but this movie is not a scene-for-scene conversion of that – far from it. What this movie presents is also not a remake of the film from 1990. Instead you've got a whole new story that, like a good take should, gives you a whole new angle. Without relying on the audience to have seen the 1990 version of the story or on their having read the science fiction short, Total Recall does justice to those two iterations with high-octane action and very literal visual hat-tips to the movie and a solid and very simple story (to a point) just like the original written tale.

Of course the concept ends up being anything but simple as event after event suggest that Farrell's character is not who he thinks he is – or who several different factions in the story tell him he is. The director of this version of the film Len Wiseman has pushed the storyline and what you see onscreen in so many different directions that nitpickers and detail-oriented folks will be having one heck of a difficult time keeping everything straight.

But in the end, even if you do not care whether what's happening in the tale makes perfect sense to you or not, you've still got some rather entertaining and visually spectacular action and environments on your hands and burning up your retinas.

The story goes like this

Farrell's character – whose name changes throughout the film, so I'll not spoil it for you here – is a factory worker with a dead-end life. He has a lovely wife who works for the government on the British side of the world, the same area as the factory where he works, while they both live in a tiny apartment on the Australian continent known as The Colony. Oh yes, and the rest of the world has been rendered unlivable due to many long years of world war.

Farrell's character decides to spice up his life by heading to the company known as REKALL where he's promised whatever memories he wants, implanted directly into his mind. While there, everything goes to heck – and suddenly he's the secret agent from the memories he requested be implanted in his mind. From that point on, just like the 1990 version of the film, you're left to decide whether he's living in the real world or if everything you're seeing is his memory playing out before you.

What's good

There's an awesome amount of little bits and bytes you're going to remember after you've left the theater. Remember to keep your eyes on the paper money that appears in our hero's bank account (10549, remember that number!), watch for the lady who passes through security before Farrell, and bask in the environment that's also appeared in a collection of films that are each known for that environment specifically:

• Blade Runner

• The Fifth Element

• Minority Report

The last film on that short list is also a re-interpretation of the same short story Total Recall is based on. As Farrell's character explores his past and his potential future here in this film, you'll find yourself seeing what can only be described as direct tributes to the Bourne film series and, though I wanted to bad to avoid saying it: Star Wars. There's a collection of troops that walks through this movie that are without a doubt based heavily on the look and feel of the Stormtroopers and Clone Troopers of the entirety of the Star Wars 6-film collection.

And the whole experience feels really good, too.

Though again the movie does move so fast and flash so much visual stimulation up on the screen so unrelentingly at times that it may make you want to cover your face for a breather, it is all consumable. The movie is just the right length and is a mix of elements that will make it a movie many people will want in their collection in the near future.

What's bad

The movie's reliance on Kate Beckinsale gets to the point where it's almost baffling. She's there, she's in a chase, she disappears, then it's not 5 minutes later and she's back again. Right with the idea that this movie doesn't give you much room to breath, it really doesn't give you a chance to appreciate Beckinsale's character. She never goes away – she's almost on the screen more than the protagonist, for goodness' sake.

On that note, there's not nearly enough Bryan Cranston in this movie. This man has exploded in the past few years as he's found his stride in the TV series Breaking Bad, and he certainly shows it in Total Recall. Even with the very few and in-between throw-away lines that he does have as the almost phantom enemy of Farrell, his lovable devil attitude is always welcome when he pops up.

The action is fabulous, but there's just a few too many slides. In the future, the most awesome move you can do when you're in a secret agent battle is to slide forward on your knees like a rockstar. That's what this movie taught me.

Should you see it?

Of course you should see it – but only if you're not prone to seizures. There certainly are some bright flashing lights in this movie, a lot of action happening at a very quick pace – and if you're not able to accept certain suggestions in a relatively loose plot line and move on, you might have trouble. If on the other hand you're ready for a surprisingly joyfully executed science fiction action thriller that'll have you saying, "what did I just see – I must see it again", then this is the movie for you.

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