Do we need a Total Recall remake? Unless your memory’s been wiped, the answer is clearly no. Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 sci-fi thriller was undeniably sleazy and ultra violent, but it also had a rollicking energy, a sly satirical edge and a larger-than-life Arnold Schwarzenegger going at full tilt.
New director Len Wiseman and star Colin Farrell can’t match that, but if you can forget the original then their film is reasonably entertaining on its own terms. Not that they’ve brought anything particularly new to the project. The concept, based on Philip K Dick’s mind-bending story ‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale’, is the same as before: an average guy signs up for a mind-trip vacation and inadvertently unlocks memories of his secret past as a super-spy.
The setting, however, has been tweaked. In Wiseman’s remake it’s the late 21st Century and global chemical war has rendered most of the planet uninhabitable, save for the United Federation of Great Britain and a futuristic version of Australia called The Colony. Farrell’s Doug Quaid is a factory worker who shuttles between the two via a gigantic elevator that runs though the centre of the Earth, connecting the worlds of the exploiters and exploited.
As one of the latter, Doug is dissatisfied with his lot in life, despite having an unfeasibly hot wife (Kate Beckinsale’s Lori). So he goes to Rekall, a company that offers to turn its customers’ fantasies into real memories. Instead, the experience appears to reveal Doug’s real identity as a spy battling alongside rebel fighter Melina (Jessica Biel) to thwart the evil schemes of the UFB’s ruler, Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston). Or is this alternative reality simply a paranoid delusion?
Wiseman, maker of the Underworld films with real-life spouse Beckinsale, doesn’t make as much of this possibility as did Verhoeven, opting to pitch Farrell and co into a series of frenetically choreographed fights and chases. The impressively lithe stars pull off all this derring-do, but the action is so relentless that it looks suspiciously as if Wiseman is hoping that if he keeps things moving at a furious lick the viewer won’t notice that he hasn’t just ripped off the original Total Recall but a host of other sci-fi classics from Star Wars to Blade Runner as well. Rest assured. Your memory isn’t playing tricks. You’ve definitely seen this all before.
On general release from Wednesday 29th August.
To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.