Director: Len Wiseman
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
I really enjoyed watching the majority of Total Recall. However before you claim that my having not seen the original means that I won’t feel the same predictability as those who have, I predicted the opening scene of this movie, two weeks or so before I saw it. This Total Recall is predictable even if you haven’t seen the original. One of the film’s biggest “twists” I was able to guess within the film’s opening five minutes and if you have any movie going experience, then you know how significant seemingly insignificant lines of dialogue on a TV news show can be. However predictability isn’t this film’s only problem.
Colin Farrell is an actor who never ceases to neither depress nor impress me. His performances in Minority Report, Daredevil and In Bruges are great; however in Total Recall I found him to be an incredibly stale, yet still watchable, presence. Colin Farrell is not terrible in this film (And some would argue is on another level to Arnold Schwarzenegger as far as acting is concerned) however every moment his character finds out one of these life changing revelations, he has the exact same, poorly done, reaction to each one. The film doesn’t give him the one-liners that are given to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original (There is no, “Consider that a divorce”) however when it does give him something closely resembling a one-liner his delivery makes you pine for Arnie’s return (Something that was personally exacerbated by the cinema playing an Expendables 2 trailer before this film)
Bryan Cranston adds another addition to his collection of one-note, supporting performances in average to awful films, however this is a significant step-up from his turns in John Carter and Rock of Ages. While I enjoy seeing his brilliant work on Breaking Bad be rewarded with plenty of Hollywood roles…could they give him a good one next time? Bill Nighy appears for all of five minutes, a seeming waste of talent and no doubt a very expensive waste of talent. Kate Beckinsale gets to have lot of fun as the murderous wife and her character’s transformation is perhaps one of the film’s only interesting and memorable moments of character development. Jessica Biel has a rather thankless role, with her having neither the transformation of Beckinsale’s character, the pantomime villainy of Cranston’s or the central importance of Farrell’s.
Moving away from the predictability, paper-thin characters and one-note performances, this is also a film that runs out of steam (As so many have this year) in its final movements. Up until the final set piece I was with this film, however it then lost my interest as soon as it all came to its conclusion. The film is also very generic and unoriginal, in a visual sense. As I know that this film is a remake of a film (Which in turn was an adaptation of a short story, Phillip K. Dick’s, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”) that came out before the films I am about to mention, this remake is very much inspired from the following: Minority Report (Source material shares an author), The Island, Inception (Zero gravity sequences, an addition if my research into the original is correct) and crucially, The Bourne series. This is very much a post-Bourne remake of Total Recall with this film taking exact plot points, action sequences and a narrative/thematic focus, straight from that franchise.
The film may also prove to be repetitive for some, as it doesn’t mine all of the philosophical, science-fiction potential out of its concept and is instead content on being constructed upon one chase scene after another. However the fact that I didn’t find this film repetitive and tedious is where I can finally begin on the positives about this film. The film is for the most part edited and paced very well. Despite me criticizing the unoriginality of a lot of this film’s visual presentation, it is still a very well directed film. Len Wiseman is a great director of action and each action sequence in this film is coherently shot, suitably staged and crucially, exciting. Visually, this film is among the year’s best. Wiseman is able to create a palpable, physical and believable futuristic environment, avoiding having his world being an entirely computer generated concoction. The visual effects, cinematography, production design and sound design is all top-notch. However if I have one criticism of Wiseman’s direction of this film, it is that he rips off J.J. Abrams' trademark lens flare.
Another positive of this film is that from what I have seen, heard and read of the original, it sounds as if this Total Recall is not an entirely redundant remake. This film takes some narrative departures from its origins and whilst I wish that the film had been a bit braver and even more different come its conclusion, this is still a remake which appears to be much less redundant than its title would suggest.
Overall while Total Recall does have its problems, due to the brilliant visuals, action sequences and story, which is still twisty, fun and engaging despite its predictability and unoriginal presentation, as well as due to some of the film’s more enjoyable one-note performances (notably Bryan Cranston and Kate Beckinsale) this is a fun ride. This is a review, which focused more on the problems than the positives, however while the problems outweigh the positives in quantity, they do not in regards to the viewing experience. Total Recall is a well-produced and exciting piece of Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking and it deserves more credit than it has been getting so far.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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