(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on 3 August 2012, retrieved from http://newindianexpress.com/entertainment/reviews/article582449.ece)
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy
Director: Len Wiseman
Rating: 2 stars
When Colin Farrell replaces Arnold Schwarzenegger, you sort of expect a more intelligent movie. Instead, in Total Recall, version 2012, we get a technically superior movie that tries to compensate for its complete lack of emotional connect with jazzy CGI and blitzy 3D.
I have somewhat fond memories of the 1990 original – most of all, I remember the horror with which the adults reacted to the scene with the, umm, shall we say mutant, prostitute while we kids gawked at the television. Yes, those were the happy days when you could borrow uncensored video cassettes from a rental store near you. I also remember it involved a trip to Mars, and that that was necessitated by something to do with a memory chip replacing real memories.
Here, we economise. The world is facing chemical warfare, and therefore there’s a crisis of air shortage, but there are a couple of places on earth where everything’s A-OK. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a factory worker, who slogs away at robots that strut about, doing I’m-not-quite-sure-what. A high-speed lift that burrows into the earth does away with all reason and pragmatism. I suppose Quaid must employ the services of a company that creates false memories because he can’t get his hands on hallucinogens.
And when that experiment goes wrong, Quaid is stuck between the regime and the rebels. The authorities are controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), while the rebels are represented rather more enticingly by Jessica Biel. I suppose a man who’s not satisfied with a wife who looks like Kate Beckinsale could do worse than running across the world, dodging bullets, with a woman who looks like Biel.
The detailed 3D graphics allow us to marvel briefly at the skill of the team that created them. But it’s remarkable how little we care about a man who’s lost his memories, and who isn’t sure whom he should trust. Maybe we’ve seen too many films about this. Or maybe Colin Farell’s single expression of intense panic has outlived its use.
Fans of science fiction, who’ve actually read the Philip K Dick story the films are loosely based on – We Can Remember It for You Wholesale – may be disappointed at the absence of most ingredients that were so integral to the story. The story made one think. The film makes one give up.
The Verdict: The new Total Recall is mostly a repetitive, somewhat less violent, definitely less interesting, version of the 1990 original.