Monday 20 August 2012

Movie Review: Total Recall (2012)

A remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film and based on the 1966 Philip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale", the 2012 version of Total Recall is wholly unnecessary. Director Len Wiseman gets trapped into an endless succession of tiresome chases powered by computer generated imagery, resulting in byte-overload and a shamefully narrative-poor experience.

In a grim post-apocalyptic future, there are only two inhabitable territories on the globe. The United Federation of Britain comprises the former western Europe and holds the political power. The Colony (what used to be known as Australia) is where the poor and the labourers live. The two are connected by a high speed commuter shuttle system known as The Fall, which uses a tunnel drilled through the earth's core. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) lives in the Colony with his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) and works in the UFB. Unsatisfied with his life, Quaid suffers from nightmares where he is part of an anti-UFB resistance movement.

Quaid approaches the Rekall agency, which embeds fake memories for the enjoyment of those who cannot afford real escapist vacations. Upon choosing to create a memory where he is a dangerous double-agent, Quaid's real identity is triggered: he is indeed a revolutionary, and teams up with fellow-rebel Melina (Jessica Biel) to fight for the cause of resistance leader Matthias Lair (Bill Nighy), with the intention of toppling the evil UFB Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston).

Farrell, Beckinsale (Mrs. Wiseman) and Biel do little other than look grim and chase each other through the storm of computer generated pixels. The script by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback offers no wit or panache, with the characters taking a distant back seat to the CPUs. Wiseman, who's main claim to fame is the Underworld series, makes sure that the sets look great, but forgets to issue any commands to his actors beyond run, jump, grimace.

Total Recall quickly degenerates into a series of highly kinetic chase scenes, an impressive array of servers deployed to create virtual mazes for Quaid to race his way towards a jumbled objective. Pretty soon, the reasons for the running around are forgotten, and the brief pauses to move the story along or provide depth to the characters are treated with impatient disdain. The mindless action becomes an end unto itself, and all intellectual engagement is jettisoned into that tunnel through the earth's core.

The movie finally drives itself to depths of absurdity, the character of Lori effectively discarding her entire mission for the sake of justifying the ridiculous pursuit of Quaid with lethal force, and just when the script could not possibly become any more farcical, Chancellor Vilos personally leads an army of tin-pot robots intent on conquering The Colony by travelling with all the mechanized soldiers on the same shuttle system used by commuters. A politician leading an attacking army and using a glorified bus for transportation into battle? The 2012 version of Total Recall is just total imbecility.

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