Nonstop Movies: ‘Total Recall’

I didn’t think it was possible to dumb down an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, but the 2012 version of “Total Recall” proves that in Hollywood, anything is possible. A remake of the 1990 sci-fi action hit, this version borrows the original film’s concept and keeps a few key elements, but mostly disregards any plot points that would keep the audience guessing, resulting in a fairly straightforward, yet entertaining, action movie.

I’ve only seen the original film once, but I remember not knowing until the end what was truly real and what was fantasy. The remake makes no effort whatsoever to force the audience to think. It establishes the story and basically tells its heroes to run, run some more, then run again.

Colin Farrell takes on the Schwarzenegger role of everyday man Douglas Quaid. He’s a factory worker with a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale), who often has vivid dreams of a past life that make him feel like his current life is missing something. He goes to a company called Rekall, which specializes in implanting false memories that feel completely real so he can fill that void in his mind. But as soon as he’s hooked up to the machine, the police invade the room in an attempt to bring him in. From that point on, it’s 100 minutes of nonstop chases.

While a simpler version of a Schwarzenegger film sounds like a recipe for disaster, director Len Wiseman does a fantastic job of creating a visually fantastic future world for the action to take place. What this version of “Total Recall” lacks in smarts, it more than makes up in visual effects and thrills. The ridiculously attractive cast of Farrell, Beckinsale and Jessica Biel all handle their action scenes terrifically, and Wiseman choreographs some of the most imaginative action scenes of the year. Farrell and Biel are on the run for the majority of the film, and Wiseman’s creativity in their chase scenes is superb. A magnetic car chase as well as a chase scene with unpredictable elevators are especially effective.

I usually don’t delve into the critique of set designs, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing visual backgrounds of the film. The special effects are the highlight of “Total Recall,” and the city backdrops are simply amazing and full of detail. Apartments seem to be built as if part of a bad Tetris game, and the underworld section of the city has a heavy Asian influence, reminiscent of “Blade Runner.” This film definitely must be watched on the biggest screen possible in order to absorb all the details. The only negative about the visuals is Wiseman’s overly excessive use of lens flares, a trademark of director JJ Abrams, but even he doesn’t use them this much. For some reason Wiseman uses lens flares in virtually every scene, and it gets distracting after a while.

So if you don’t mind the lack of real science fiction or a story that will stimulate the brain cells, “Total Recall” is a very fun and action filled film with awesome visual effects that will certainly entertain.

“Total Recall,” 118 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and opens in theaters today.