{2jtab: Movie Review}

Total Recall - Movie Review


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4 stars

Erase any memory you might have of Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Yes, even the three-breasted midget lady.  As fun as that one was, it’s time to get serious.  The memories of that blood-soaked campy action movie aren’t needed anymore.  Director Len Wiseman (of Underworld fame) has done something very, very rare these days in Hollywood; he just made a better Total Recall movie.

You read it correctly, folks.  This is one remake that doesn’t suck.  Oh, I’m sure you can go to other sites and read snarky reviews about how everything is just one chase sequence after another with minimal character development and blah, blah, blah.  Sure, there are issues.  Minor ones, but – you see – I love high-octane movies and, if you are a fan of the look of Blade Runner and the steel-eyed cat-and-mouse chases of Minority Report and have a love affair with the solar flares from J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, then I know – without a doubt – that you will love Wiseman’s Total Recall.

The 2012 version, like the original, is loosely based on the 1966 Philip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale“, yet it doesn’t completely encompass the full story.  Maybe in 20 years - when we get the third remake - Hollywood will settle down and tell that version. Until then…this is the version that needs to be seen.

Wiseman’s Total Recall jettisons the whole life on Mars angle for some political intrigue and a planet Earth, circa 2084, that has been divided into two nations: the United Federation of Britain, ruled by Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), and the Colony, home of the poor factory workers who must travel through the earth’s core every day to get to work by means of The Fall, a gravity-defying transit system that almost completely sells the film on its own.

Enter everyman Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell).  He is haunted by dreams where he attempts to save a mysterious brunette (Jessica Biel) from deadly Stormtrooper-looking robots, reads Ian Fleming novels on The Fall, and quite can’t get used to the life he’s living as a factory worker on a police drone assembly line.  He, like most every other person out there, wants something more.

And so he visits Rekall, a memory-adjusting business that just might be able to give him the super spy experience his dreams are made of, but – as he was warned by best friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine) – things go wrong.  Suddenly, his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) is a spy for Cohaagen and he discovers the truth about his own status: he’s really working for the underground movement led by Matthias Lair (Bill Nighy).  And that mysterious brunette in his dreams?  She’s real, too.

Or is she?  Is any of it real?

Mega-havoc is wreaked as Quaid goes in search of the truth.  Director Wiseman and cinematographer Paul Cameron (who shot Man on Fire and Collateral) flex some steely muscles with some seriously great chase and action sequences against an incredibly lush and machine-like world drained of any hope.  The future is not too bright but – filled with cell phones implanted inside of human hands, currency with President Obama’s face, and loads of flying cars – it certainly is interestingly envisioned.

Farrell shows off some serious chops as he registers the total incomprehension of his situation and mixes it with the seriousness needed to execute the role and sell the doomed look of Total Recall.  Many times Quaid moves from sheer terror and confusion to utter confidence as a man with no idea how to load a weapon goes to ass-kicking super spy in a matter of minutes.  Pay close attention to the scene where he plays the piano for the first time.  Truly, a delicate touch is needed; something lacking in the former Governor of California version.  Apples and oranges, I know…

Let’s face it, though.  If you can’t get behind Wiseman’s Underworld movies, then you probably won’t get into Total Recall.  It’s a lavish production and the action beats render it lighter than air; no introspection here and none of Dick’s questions are asked.  Personally, that’s the only ding I can think to give it.  There’s a bit of reflection in couple of the monologues, but nothing as intoxicating as the questions the original story attempted to answer.

Total Recall is a rousing blast of watered-down science fiction.  Probably not as mind-bending as it should have been, but – with the question mark hanging about its ending – I think it’s better off not pummeling the brain, too.  It’s better than what has been offered before and, while it doesn’t attempt to stimulate the mind like Inception, it does deliver a good time in the dog days of summer.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Total Recall - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language.
130 mins.
: Len Wiseman
: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback
Cast: Collin Farrell; Kate Beckinsale; Jessica Biel; Bryan Cranston; Bill Night; Bokeem Woodbine
Genre: Action | Sci-fi
What is real?
Memorable Movie Quote: "If I'm not me, then who the hell am I?"
Columbia Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date: August 3, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
December 18, 2012.

Synopsis: Total Recall is an action thriller about reality and memory, inspired anew by the famous short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick. Welcome to Rekall, the company that can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), even though he's got a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale) who he loves, the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life - real memories of life as a super-spy might be just what he needs. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. Finding himself on the run from the police – controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), the leader of the free world – Quaid teams up with a rebel fighter (Jessica Biel) to find the head of the underground resistance (Bill Nighy) and stop Cohaagen. The line between fantasy and reality gets blurred and the fate of his world hangs in the balance as Quaid discovers his true identity, his true love, and his true fate.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Total Recall - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

5 Stars

Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - December 18, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps); Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (2 BDs); UV digital copy; Bonus View (PiP)
Region Encoding: Region-free

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a brilliant transfer of a science fiction film and it is sure to please its fans.  Shot with a combination of 35mm and HD cameras, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode is superb…lens-flares and all.  Think of its look as a Greatest Hits package from a bazillion other science fiction sources.  Fine details are to be found in the wonky architecture of the Colony and in the ultra-sleek skyline.  Lines are razor sharp and clarity is smooth. Facial features are ripped with the tiniest of details and imperfections.  Black levels are inky and never do they bleed through the image.  Colors are dystopian-like damper and are bright when needed.  Honestly, a picture doesn’t get much better looking.  The sound is full-throttled and, presented in a super-sized Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, absolutely ignites the picture with punctuated sound.  The surround channels actually thump against the sheer force of this soundfield.



  • Found on the director's cut of the movie, Len Wiseman talks scene specifically about the different cuts of the movie and the look of his vision for the story.  He talks up the effects and the many nods to other films peppered throughout the film.  He also digs up some good stuff on the original film and its director.  This is a really strong commentary for those interested in science fiction, the film, and the director’s cut.

Special Features:

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment offers the film in two Blu-ray options: a two-disc set and a three-disc combo pack. Both are dubbed the "Extended Director's Cut" and come with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. But – more importantly – let’s dive in and discuss the "Extended Director's Cut" first.  Did you know Ethan Hawke was originally in this?  Neither did I.  Watch the extended cut and be amazed.  It’s an important cameo that never should have been cut from the movie.  The Special Features, spanning two discs of material, are fairly involving.  Disc One features trailers and a featurette called ‘Insight Mode’ which allows viewers to see behind the scenes on the production, set design, pre-viz art, and lots more while the film plays.  On Disc Two, Professor of Theoretical Physics Michio Kaku takes over and talks his possibilities of the technology the movie depicts being our future.  Unfortunately, one of the biggest attractions in the movie, The Fall, gets the shortest of coverage and leaves much unanswered about the making of this device.  For Blu-ray owners, there’s a bit more making of featurettes which adds a nice 40-mins of behind the scenes production glimpses and focuses on the fight scenes, the choreography, and the making of a few key scenes.  A typical collection of flubs rounds out the collection.

A DVD Copy and UltraViolet Digital Copy are both also provided with the set.

Disc One:

  • Insight Mode (feature length)
  • Trailers

Disc Two:

  • Science Fiction vs. Science Fact (9 min)
  • Designing the Fall (3 min)
  • Gag Reel (8 min)
  • Total Action (20 min)
  • Stepping into Recall: Pre-visualization Sequences (26 min)
  • Videogame Demo

{2jtab: Trailer}