DVD Review - Total Recall (2012)

Colin Farrell stars as Doug Quaid, a factory worker in the future whose job is to be on a robot assembly line, which is odd because the factory could just have robots do that job. The premise has the Earth suffering from a post-chemical war that has left the planet mostly uninhabitable, except for two areas. One is Britain and the other is Australia, which is referred to as "The Colony." Despite all of humanity being concentrated in these two places only, Farrell still speaks with an American accent, instead of his natural Irish.

Instead of airplanes, people travel between Britain and Australia by way of a subway tunnel that goes through the center of the Earth, which includes the molten core of the planet. It's ridiculous to imagine how it was even built and if the technology exists to build this tunnel through molten lava, while defying the laws of gravity, why the technology doesn't exist to fly a plane?

The movie establishes a dichotomy between the people who live in Britain and the ones who live in Australia, but the dichotomy is never clear. The dichotomy seems to be socioeconomically based where I assumed that the people in Britain have wealth and power and the people in Australia are poor and oppressed. The movie is rooted in Doug Quaid's point of view, so because he's a frustrated and bored, blue collar guy, living in the Australia area, we get that sense.

At the same time, a group of terrorists led by a man named Matthias starts bombing places in Britain. They're not terrorists but rebels. Yet, it's not clear what their goals were, or what they hoped to accomplish. The movie tells us that Matthias has a turned, secret agent named Carl Hauser who is responsible for a lot of the bombings. If you haven't seen the original Total Recall, all of this is inconsequential.

The thrust of the story is Quaid going to this place called Rekall, which is a company that creates life-like fantasies in people's heads. It basically implants memories. It's not spelled out how one experiences those memories. It's not clear if it's in real time, but presumably not. Quaid never gets to find out because the process is supposedly interrupted.

The soldiers who interrupt are going to arrest him but Quaid on instinct kills a whole room full of these soldiers. From that point, Quaid is on the run and the people who are after him could have easily caught him but a nonsensical action lets Quaid know that there's something bigger going on and that he might not be who he thought he was.

What Quaid learns is that he might not be a bored factory worker. He learns that he might be Carl Hauser, the secret agent for Matthias who turned against Cohaagen, played by Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad). Cohaagen is the chancellor or head of the government in Britain. Since Hauser essentially lost his memories, this movie is in one way or the other The Bourne Identity (2002).

I'm not sure if The Bourne Identity dealt with this, but this movie has a scene at the end that questions if a person can be defined by his memories. Do we do what we do or feel what we feel because we have the memories that we do or does it go deeper? Obviously, tons of movies about amnesia have explored these questions.

This movie poses those questions, and like other movies that pose those questions, Total Recall (2012) puts the protagonist in the position where he has to choose between two identities, the identity that's pre-amnesia and the identity that's post-amnesia. Yet, the filmmakers make the choice rather obvious. It's essentially the same choice that's made in the original film. The problem is Cohaagen is too cartoonish a villain. He's so obviously a bad guy. There's no shades of gray, so the direction that Quaid goes is predictable.

Aside from the amnesia and identity issue, the movie could have played more with the dream issue. The film also poses the question if Quaid were dreaming everything. Coming in the wake of Inception (2010), what this movie does with blurring dreams and reality is very pitiful and the possible misdirection should not have been there.

The cinematography is dark and mostly blue. Most people comment on how the cityscape is very much like Blade Runner (1982) and there's no explanation as to why. For example, Rekall is designed as a dank, Japanese or Asian-inspired whorehouse. It's in contrast to the bright, clinical, sterile space that is in the original.

Colin Farrell gets not much to do acting-wise. As evidenced in the first five minutes, Farrell is very buff. He's probably the biggest and most muscular he's ever been. He walks around shirtless and his pectorals, biceps and abs are just bulging. Clearly, he's in great shape so that he can pull off all the running, jumping and fighting here, but that's all he does. Beyond running, jumping and looking confused, Farrell doesn't do any respectable acting.

I could have forgiven that, if the action sequences had any weight to them. In the end, all of the action is in service to politics and plot right out of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. The action sequences for the most part are derivative of Minority Report (2002) and I, Robot (2004). Yet, there is absolutely nothing memorable about them. There certainly isn't an action sequence that stands out, nothing that stands out like the car plant fight or the robotic spiders in Minority Report.

The action sequences are directed and edited in a way that are too kinetic and relentless to be enjoyed. The action has hardly any setup. The sequences rush to the punchlines. Director Len Wiseman never allows tension to build. His action is just punches of acceleration. He doesn't give the sequences sufficient enough arcs to anchor the audience or give the audience any kind of emotional tie.

I did think it was nice, if nonsensical, that Quaid has cash money and the $50 bills of which had President Barack Obama's face on them.

One Star out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, brief nudity and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 58 mins.


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