‘Total Recall’ Movie Review – Total Genre Pic
It’s a shame (sort of) that there have been so many great movies dealing with memories. Three films that I would consider some of the best modern movies (Memento, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Inception) have similarities to Len Wiseman’s Total Recall. However, unlike the other films, Recall doesn’t seem nearly as polished or focused, which is really unfortunate given how exciting it can be at times.
While I’m comparing movies, there was a quality to this film that made me think of the recent release of The Amazing Spider-Man, where I just couldn’t get over the fact that I’d seen this movie before. In the case of Total Recall, I had literally finished the original Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 movie) 14 hours before I saw the new one. I was embarrassed I hadn’t seen it before and really enjoyed it. However, I think it’s worth noting that a lot of the twists and turns are pretty identical between movies, meaning there weren’t many surprises.
This year’s Recall does switch up some details, though, including the setting and the scope of the futuristic environment. However, some of the changes weren’t as well received – I felt like a change to a PG-13 rating seriously hindered the action.
For those that don’t know anything about either movie, Total Recall is set in a dystopian future where the government controls society. When Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) decides to use an experimental memory implantation service (titled Rekall), he finds out that he’s had an old memory set erased. The service is intended to create memories (like vacations, experiences, and etc.), but Quaid finds himself confused about his past and how all the people around him fit into it.
When the government, led by a controlling leader named Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) and a hard-working agent (Kate Beckinsale), find out Quaid is trying to recover his old identity, they try everything in their power to stop him from finding out his secret past.
There’s nothing terribly wrong with the performances…with Farrell being a formidable choice. I thought Beckinsale was pretty good, too, but half her role involved her busting through a door trying to catch Quaid. After a few times, the trope became overused and tired.
The plot obviously leads to an action-heavy final two acts, with some of it being pretty awesome. Unfortunately, the best action sequence (in my opinion) was all over the marketing trailers. So again, nothing new.
By the end, Total Recall feels more like an action movie first, memory-trip second. The films I mentioned earlier are the opposite. They weave between mind-bending drama and awesome visuals (especially in the case of Inception) pretty flawlessly.
I try not to put movies in a box before I see them, and I’d ultimately say this year’s Total Recall is decent. When it boils down to it, the story focuses way too much on action when it had some great potential opportunities to talk about memory, existentialism, and human nature. There’s enough difference in the two films (and 28 years) to justify a new movie, but the twists and turns aren’t lost on anyone who’s seen the latter film recently (like me).
Would I recommend it? Probably. Would I see it again? Probably not.
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