The remake of Total Recall is a solid action movie, but suffers from the fact that you just want it to be so much better.
Plot: Set in a dystopian future, a disease has rendered the world uninhabitable, except for what remains of Britain (The United Federation of Britain, or UFB) and Australia (The Colony). The educated and rich live in the UFB, while the underprivileged masses live in The Colony and outlying places of the UFB. Civil unrest between the two populations abounds. When regular-joe factory worker, Doug Quaid goes to Rekall to escape his mundane life, he discovers that he is not only a spy, but a double agent for the greatest conflict mankind has faced yet.
Good Stuff: This is a great action movie, no question about it. The action is almost non-stop, and the effects are excellent. While there are issues with the characterization (discussed below), Jessica Biel puts in a great performance in this film. (Writer’s musing: is it possible that there’s a relationship between how good her performance is and the amount of clothing she wears? Fully clothed = great? Mostly naked = intolerable?) This movie also has a dynamite soundtrack. From moment one, it’s the music that draws the viewer in and makes the stakes higher. The action is excellent, but its affect on the audience is owed almost 100% to the brilliant score by Harry Gregson-Williams.
Bad Stuff: Unfortunately, any of the good stuff is overshadowed by a bunch of really bad stuff. The film suffers significantly in its departure from the original plotline and overall story. By removing the Mars aspect of the film, the conflict simply becomes a border skirmish, rather than an interplanetary war, thus rendering much of the central conflict essentially boring. In fact, the film suffers from a serious lack of complexity as a whole. It’s not complex in its humour; it’s not complex in its plot; and it’s not complex in its social issues. It’s not even complex in its nods to the original film and source material. Sadly, this means that despite excellent effects, brilliant (but stolen) production design and a great soundtrack, the film is ultimately unforgettable.
Despite all of this, it’s actually writing and characterization where the film fails the most. Colin Farrell, a very capable actor who has an amazing capacity for fun ( Daredevil , Fright Night ), isn’t given anything to work with that would allow him to really make the role his own. It’s a shame that, really, anyone could have played this character. The Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside roles from the original film have essentially been combined into one, and then completely washed out. Not to mention that Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel are essentially interchangeable women, making their roles in the film incidental, rather than greatly meaningful and, more importantly, memorable.
Final Thoughts: Total Recall is a solid action film that you will enjoy while you’re watching it and instantly forget when you leave. It’s biggest failing is actually just that it doesn’t stack up to the original, which it will be endlessly compared to whether that’s fair or not. If you’re either not a fan of the original, or have never seen it, grab some popcorn and beat the heat with this summer blockbuster this weekend.