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Friday, 03 August 2012 19:50

'Total Recall' delivers a total experience
Written by Diane Carson
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About this Media...

  • Director: Len Wiseman
  • Dates: Opens August 3, 2012

Science fiction films open up space for the imagination to play with ideas as much as gadgets. Total Recall is a case in point. Benefitting from fabulous CGI work reminiscent of Metropolis and Blade Runner, it finds time to play with the vagaries of memory and the question of how we know who we are.

Douglas Quaid needs a break from his persistent insomnia, recurring nightmares, and his factory job. So he visits Rekall to have pleasant memories implanted to replace the terrifying dream that opens the film. His visit to Rekall begins a series of ricocheting events that he must unravel. Is he a secret agent or immersed in a mind game? Was he a resistance fighter or an enforcer? Does he fight for or against the Empire?

As Doug/aka Hauser, Colin Farrell proves again that he’s a chameleon, shifting through moods and attitudes with as much skill as the physical demands. A charismatic actor, he’s well supported by Bryan Cranston as head of the United Kingdom of Britain and ruler of the only colony inhabitable on this Earth. Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel also contribute fine performances, as does Bill Nighy.

Technically, Patrick Banister’s art direction offers up a visual feast. Flashing, strobe lights at the beginning disorient the viewer almost as much as the rapidly moving elevators in several later confrontations. Vertiginous angles and multiple layers keep the compositions complex and arresting. There’s always something interesting to watch. Contributing its fair share, the sound design is equally effective, particularly because director Len Wiseman alternates pounding music and vivid sound effects with equally quiet scenes, a truly intelligent interpretation of the action’s ebb and flow.

More color would have been welcome. Dystopian future worlds don’t have to come only in white, black, and shades of gray. It also remains a curious fact that the bad guys can’t shoot straight. Maybe the robots need reprogramming. Since they’re the primary targets as the Empire’s army, the violence feels less personal and even gets a bit humorous at moments when a lopped off arm continues to salute, for example. Admirably, though briefly, emotions matter and take precedence in reaction to a couple violent attacks.

Very loosely inspired by a Philip K. Dick story, more visually impressive and fun than the 1990 version, Total Recall is a totally wonderful escape with provocative ideas to think about later. At area theaters.

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