Capsule Movie Review – Total Recall (2012)
by HELEN GEIB
Like the 1990 Verhoeven/Schwarzenegger movie of the same title, Total Recall takes as its starting point the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” The premise: An ordinary man with a boring life goes to a shop selling “memories” that are better than the real thing. Adventure follows, but is it real? The dystopian setting is handsomely rendered, albeit highly derivative of Blade Runner by way of Minority Report. Colin Farrell plays the hero on a head trip, and his performance carries the movie as far as acting alone can carry it- namely, pretty far but short of the finish line. Less is more in action movies is a maxim too often observed in the breach in big-budget Hollywood product. Essentially a two hour chase, Total Recall is fun until it isn’t. The filmmakers confuse futuristic high-tech with license for escalating physical unreality. What would fly in a tale of cyborgs, androids, or what-have-you enhanced humans doesn’t fly without that precondition. The chief pursuer (played by Kate Beckinsale) in particular, is supposedly human but in fundamentals more closely resembles the T-1000 of Terminator 2. Of course, that could be taken as evidence that it’s all in his head. So could the love interest’s (Jessica Biel) lack of personality and the fact the villain’s plan doesn’t make sense. Lazy writing is the less charitable explanation. Occasional throwaway musings on the meaning of identity and memory notwithstanding, the existential dilemma is a gimmick in an over-extended shoot-em-up. This isn’t the first adaptation of a Dick story to founder on the freedom that comes with turning a clever conceit into a feature-length film.
Double Feature It With… Minority Report for a double dose of Colin Farrell in Philip K. Dick-inspired movies that find their best scenes in flying car chases.