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Movie review: 'Total Recall' solid, not as strange as original

Published August 5, 2012 5:19 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Len Wiseman's remake of "Total Recall" is more earthbound than Paul Verhoeven's 1990 version, in more ways than one.

In Wiseman's version, chemical warfare has reduced the Earth to two outposts — The United Federation of Britain (in England) and The Colony (in Australia), linked by an underground conduit called The Fall, where workers from The Colony commute to the richer factories of the Federation.

One such worker is Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell), happily married to Lori (Kate Beckinsale) but suffering from bad dreams. He decides to try out a memory-fantasy service, Rekall, and soon discovers that his regular life isn't really his own. For starters, he's somehow got the skills of a secret agent, and Lori's actually a police spy trying to kill him.

As Doug tries to unravel the truth, he becomes embroiled in a plot involving the Federation's nasty dictator (Bryan Cranston), a rebel leader (Bill Nighy) and the pretty rebel fighter (Jessica Biel) who populates his dreams.

Wiseman ("Underworld," "Live Free or Die Hard") creates some energetic action sequences and puts a futuristic sheen to the standard "Blade Runner"-style dystopia. Farrell does the regular-guy thing better than Arnold Schwarzenegger ever did, and Beckinsale (aka Mrs. Wiseman) is quite good as a kick-ass villain.

What's missing — besides the fact the movie never goes to Mars, as the original did — is the loony, over-the-top panache Verhoeven brought to the story. It's a serviceable action thriller, but not a memorable one.

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'Total Recall'

Opens Friday, Aug. 3, at theaters everywhere; rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language; 118 minutes. For more movie reviews, visit nowsaltlake.com/movies.