Saturday, August 4, 2012

Total Recall

Plot: Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a factory worker, who wants a better life, but has nightmares of fighting a revolution against the government. In this Blade Runner-like world, memory manipulation is commonplace, and Quaid pays to have exciting memories inserted into his head like a cheap vacation. Seemingly the treatment goes wrong, and suddenly Quaid is thrust into the middle of a revolution against the government, and his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) is a government minder and super-spy that wants to kill him. Quaid kills dozens and escapes, and meets resistance fighter Melina (Jessica Biel.) He tries to figure out what is real and what is not, then the movie thunders to its action movie climatic conclusion. 

Review: This is a successful summer movie -- lots of action, just a little thoughtful reflection on "What is real?" and a little romance. 

Best parts: I liked the funky city-scapes. I loved the beat-up streets, the texture of the buildings, the signs, the big jaws that hold the train, and all the crowds. I liked the Quaid/Lori fight scenes even if it seems like Lori can never die, and is two places at once. Action movie villains are supposed to be tougher than real life. I liked Jessica Biel, who was tough and likable. I liked how everyone knows more about Quaid than he does. I liked Lori's last gasp attack on Quaid: really surprising.  I liked Bryan Cranston's portrayal of the British Chancellor; especially how he digs in and fights like a super-villian.

Superimposed on the Phillip K Dick story there is another story about the revolution, and it includes an elevator that goes from Britain to Australia through the center of the earth.  It is dumb to criticize Sci-Fi for being impossible, this is more like a fantasy premise. There are also white-plastic garbed storm troopers just like Star Wars.  

Worst parts:  The politics around "The United Federation of Britain" and the "Colony". The half hearted attempt to question whether the whole movie was a dream or real. This was a big theme in the 1990 movie, but it isn't  in the book. It didn't work too well in 2012 version.  At the end the movie speeds along -- action heavy and light on plot. It is cool to see an army of storm troopers like Star Wars, but it is distracting. 

Quaid is fighting a war where he does not know what side he is on because of his memory implants on top of memory implants. Writer Wimmer wants us to question whether we should be killing people if our minds can be changed so easily.

Major Spoiler: I read the original Phillip K. Dick short story this afternoon, and most of the plot of this version is not in the story. The original has the memory implant, Quaid being a revolutionary with a repressed memory, and his wife being a government minder. 

Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Rating: 2.5+ stars: nearly three

More: Somewhere in America,  some one is planning to have  an extra boob sewn on.