Total Recall (2012) Film Review, a movie directed by Len Wiseman and starring Kate Beckinsale, Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, John Cho, Currie Graham, Will Yun Lee, Steve Byers, Bokeem Woodbine, Brooks Darnell, and Jesse Bond.
Let me begin by saying that this review will not be comparing the new Total Recall to the original 1990 film. While there are probably some fine analyses out there, I don’t believe you should need to see two films to enjoy one. With that being said, if you are going to choose one of the two – go with the original. In the spirit of full disclosure, I walked into this film with low expectations, but I had no idea of knowing that it would be even worse than I could have anticipated.
Quite simply, this film is all bark and no bite. Rather than developing a plot or fleshing out characters, the filmmakers decided to string together one last-second escape after another. Even for action buffs, this gets old very quickly. It is a blatant and obvious device used to distract the audience into thinking something is happening, when really nothing is happening at all. The (supposed) plot’s conflict stems from Farrell’s character Douglas Quaid’s engagement in a memory vacation program called Rekall. He’s sick of living the same life day in and day out, and wants an escape (Colin, I feel your pain!) Things of course go wrong, and in the midst of assuming the life of a secret agent, he finds out that he actually is one. And not only is he a secret agent, he’s a double agent, working for the enemy and the resistance. But the resistance are really the enemy. And… if this sounds a little confusing, it’s because it is.
On top of a mess of a plot, every detail about Quaid is revealed piece by piece, virtually giving exposition on the fly. Normally a technique like this is used to build suspense, and keep a sense of mystery that pays off with a big reveal; here is just muddles things up, and creates a character that is impossible to care about because no one knows anything about him. Jessica Biel, essentially main protagonist number two, isn’t even introduced until half-way through the film. There is no space to find out anything about her or what her motivations are, so of course they’re given withing the span of a minute, effectively canceling out her role in the story. By the end of the movie, it’s difficult to remember what the problem was to begin with, and therefore the resolution is weak and disappointing, to say the least.
On the bright side, not everything in the movie is done poorly. Colin Farrell gives a commendable performance, if not only for the rotten material he is forced to work with. He proves in this movie that his action movie chops are not only well established, but up there with some of the best. All of the explosions and chase scenes are exciting to watch, and it’s apparent a lot of work was put in to them. If only there weren’t so many, perhaps they would get the appreciation they deserve.
My biggest gripe with this film is probably that it is wasteful. With acting talent like Brian Cranston – clearly inserted to capitalize on the popularity of Breaking Bad – and Jessica Biel, whose resume suggests she is more than a pretty face, one would assume they would be gifted with three dimensional characters. In Total Recall, both thespians are rendered crippled by poorly crafted ones.
Though the whole notion of perception and reality lends itself to some seriously deep discussion, Total Recall rarely acknowledges it, instead covering it up with shoot outs and hover cars.
All in all I would not recommend going to see this film. Wait about a year until it’s on Spike TV on a Sunday, and flip between it and something else you are watching. Even for a summer popcorn flick, the only recall you’ll be interested in is getting your money back.