Action/ Sci-Fi/ Remake
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston & Bill Nighy.
Seen At: Didsbury.
On: Sunday, 9th September, 2012.
Paul Verhoeven’s original Total Recall burst onto the cinematic scene in 1990, in typically overblown, unsubtle but ultimately deeply inventive style – (he would later direct Sharon Stone again as the quintessential femme fatale in 1992’s Basic Instinct).
Now, director Len Weisman takes over for a remake twenty-two years later, where those striking, even arguably ground-breaking practical effects have, in the majority, been traded, in favour of glossy, deeply stylistic and immersive CGI.
It’s another example of Hollywood’s current trend of remaking beloved hits and updating them for a twenty-first century audience, very much in a similar mould to Dredd, Robocop, Blade Runner and Starship Troopers.
Colin Farrell (one of the most prolific and underrated leading men), brings his customary intensity to Quaid, an ordinary citizen of a dystopian, clinical totalitarianism. He of course, steps into the shoes of Arnold Schwarnegger, who was rather wooden and stilted in the original. Farrell is infinitely better. Farrell proves yet again to be absolutely perfect in this role as an emotionally conflicted every-man. Quaid is plodding along as an unfulfilled factory worker, who stumbles across ‘Rekall’ a shady, memory experiment where all your dreams and fantasies come true...
So begins a fugitive-esque race against time as the lines between reality and fabrication become increasingly blurred. For there, the loud, machine-gun-toting set-pieces keep coming, as do references taken - liberally but fondly - from every blockbuster from Rollerball to I, Robot and Inception to Minority Report. A brilliantly threatening sense of perilous atmosphere is conjured up, both throughout and immediately, with the opening shots beginning directly in the middle of an action sequence. It has far more high-concept gravitas than the original.
Once again, there are clever touches in the production design, such as slide-able fridge photographs. There are also clever nods to some of the predecessors' most memorable and quotable surprising moments, such as the shape-shifting ‘Two Weeks!’ woman at customs, and the infamous three-boobed lady. It’s daring, clever and playful in its exploration of the multitude of identity. Notches start turning up when Quaid’s double-dealing wife Lori (played by Sharon Stone in the original, and the director’s wife Kate Beckinsale this time) transforms from conservative, well-meaning American, to British-accented killing machine.
Beckinsale is clearly having great fun playing the icy villainess, and she totally steals the limelight from Jessica Biel, who plays Quaid’s girlfriend quite seriously.
Tonally, it’s played almost deadly straight - (bar the occasional quip from Beckinsale) - it lacks the wit and trademark Schwarnegger one-liners of the original. But what this version misses out on in comedy, it more than makes up for in action, and truly spectacular GCI visuals.
The futuristic environments are stunningly crafted and realised - ultra-modern skyscrapers and cityscapes are made even more tactile in 3D - never more so than in an exhilarating flying car-chase sequence. They zoom up free-ways, dodge slow-motion bullets and crash and speed past your head.
Harry Gregson-Williams’s score is very inventive, mixing the orchestral with the synthesised and electronic, which blends perfectly with the aesthetic of a technologically-driven world.
Some of the supporting roles are rather underwritten: Bill Nighy’s character could have been more significant, and considering Bryan Cranston is playing the lead villain, oddly, he’s not introduced properly until the final third.
But otherwise, this is a deeply immersive, state-of-the-art blockbuster with a real action-man-defining performance from Farrell - which achieves a rarity: being the surprise of the summer, and actually surpassing the original.