This weekend, Len Wiseman takes on the sci-fi classic Total Recall. His version trades Arnold Schwarzenegger for Colin Farrell and Mars for Earthbound drama. It’s visually impressive and loops in the source material (Philip K. Dick’s story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale“) on a need to have basis. But does its attractive cast and slick setting make it a standout at theaters?

 

The Players:

  • Director: Len Wiseman
  • Screenwriters: Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, Philip K. Dick (short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”)
  • Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy, Will Yun Lee, John Cho
  • Music By: Harry Gregson-Williams
  • Cinematography: Paul Cameron

The Plot:

Total Recall is set in two nation states: The Colony and the United Federation of Britain (UFB). It centers on Doug Quaid, an everyman who longs for a more exciting life. He visits a place called Rekall, where they can give you memories of your biggest fantasy. But before he gets a dose, it’s revealed he already has false memories implanted. Everything about him is a lie. His real name is Hauser, his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) and best friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine) are UFB agents, and a woman named Melina (Jessica Biel), who he’s had recurring nightmares about, is his true love. In the midst of his identity crises he’s pulled into a war between the nations, spurred by the evil Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston).

The Good:

  • Kate Beckinsale/Lori: Beckinsale gives a standout performance as Hauser’s wife-for-hire. She makes the role her own by fleshing it out. Her motivations are clearer and you understand why she has such disdain for Hauser. She’s not just following blind orders. To her, he’s a traitor and should be dealt with appropriately.
  • Action Sequences: There are two action sequences that really stand out in this film. One is a four person fight in an elevator, and another is a zero gravity shootout. Considering the settings, they could have been incoherent messes, but Wiseman makes them work. In recent years, we’ve seen an unhealthy trend of excessive editing and shaky cam, so it’s good to see something more straightforward.
  • Production Design: As I said before, Total Recall is set in two places: The Colony and the United Federation of Britain. The look of each is very distinct. They’re futuristic but littered with callbacks to the past and present. This isn’t the world of The Jetsons. Instead, it’s a combination of Blade Runner, The Fifth Element and Terminator Salvation.

The So-So:

  • Lori/Melina Showdown: In the Total Recall, Lori and Melina have an unforgettable confrontation. There were no wires or harnesses to add theatricality. It was a knockdown, drag-out fight between two capable women. Unfortunately, Wiseman’s version is cut short by the addition of Hauser and a robot soldier. We get a glimpse of Lori vs. Melina, but not enough for our taste. It’s good but definitely not great.

The Bad

  • Jessica Biel/Melina: Unlike Beckinsale, Biel doesn’t slip into her role with ease. Melina is a pale comparison to what she could be, which is a strong woman who can handle herself with or without Hauser’s help. Speaking of Hauser, the chemistry between the two isn’t there. Both Farrell and Biel are great looking people, but the sexual tension was nearly non-existent. Biel puts on a good act, but it’s not enough to convince us of her and Hauser’s forgotten love.

Overall:

Len Wiseman’s Total Recall is a decent but forgettable action movie. The visuals and story stay with you in the moment, but there’s no afterglow. You won’t walk out of the theater blown away or wondering about Hauser’s future. It serves its purpose and allows you to move on.

The Rating: 7/10

Total Recall opens in theaters everywhere August 3.

Photo Gallery:

Trailer:

Will you be seeing Total Recall this weekend?