Total Recall Film Review

jessica Biel and Colin Farrell in a scene from Total Recall.
jessica Biel and Colin Farrell in a scene from 'Total Recall' - Photo © 2012 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty

“Why are you trying to kill me?” asks Doug (played by Colin Farrell). “Your memory was erased. Your mind was implanted with a life you think you’ve lived…oh and, by the way, you haven’t even begun to see my try to kill you,” answers Lori (Kate Beckinsale), Doug’s ‘fake’ wife who is intent on killing him now that he’s begun to unravel the mystery of who he really is in the remake of the 1990 science fiction/action/thriller Total Recall.
Total Recall is set over 100 in the future when Earth has been devastated by a chemical world war that has left only two civilizations in existence. One group consists of factory workers and miners who live below in a dark Chinatown-like city, and the other is made up of politicians and their robotic police force (grown to almost militaristic proportions) living above where hover cars and tall buildings still stand.
Doug believes himself to be a dissatisfied, simple factory worker whose only good thing in his pointless life is his loving, loyal and beautiful wife, Lori, who works for the government. But when he visits ‘Rekall’ – a company that provides its clients with fake memories of adventures they would love to have – something goes terribly wrong and the robotic police show up killing everyone in the room. “It’s a mistake! I’m nobody,” screams Doug. But then something in his mind clicks and he reacts taking down the squad of police. Shocked and scared, he runs home and tells his wife what has happened. At first, Lori hugs Doug and starts to comfort him, but that quickly turns to her trying to strangle him. And to Doug’s true horror, he discovers that Lori is a government agent and expert killer. So Doug goes on the run, trying to evade Lori and the robot police while trying to discover who he really is and why the government wants him dead.
Action-packed but flat, Total Recall is an uninteresting, unnecessary retelling of a semi-original, cheesy and at times downright silly science fiction film (that was based on a Philip K Dick short story). It’s a much darker and more serious take on the story, with production sets and cinematography reminiscent of the sci-fi classic movie Blade Runner as well as Minority Report.

Kate Beckinsale is effective as Lori, the government agent assigned to pose as Doug’s wife who becomes obsessed with capturing and killing him when he starts to uncover the ‘truth’ about himself. Her performance as Lori is similar to her portrayal of Selene the vampire warrior in the Underworld films.
Colin Farrell unfortunately comes up short in his performance as Doug/Hauser, the mystery man who knows deep down he’s not the boring factory worker but actually an extremely deadly agent. There is no depth to his character, just the humdrum life he seems to have at first and then the almost constant chasing by the authorities. Farrell has zero chemistry with Jessica Biel who plays Melina, the woman from his nightmares who he’s supposed to be drawn to and eventually realize he loves. It’s a romance that never sparks.
The action scenes are formulaic and there is not an original shot or chase in the film. It’s all been done much better and bigger before in films like Blade Runner, Minority Report, and The Fifth Element.
Total Recall the remake is not any worse than the original film, but it’s not an improvement either. It’s just forgettable. So, forget about seeing it on the big screen.
Total Recall was released in theaters on August 3, 2012 and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language.