“Total Recall” is my new favorite action-adventure movie of the summer.
This remake of a 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger hit outdoes the original in just about every way: strong acting, awesome art direction, thrilling action sequences.
And that’s rare for a remake.
While I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, this “Total Recall” was an exciting roller-coaster ride that got me emotionally invested in the characters, something many comic-book movies fail to do. What makes it engaging is that these people feel real enough to relate to, no matter how fantastic their circumstances.
Fantastic, maybe, but the big picture is somehow plausible. At the end of the 21st century, a post-apocalyptic world has few inhabitable zones. Terrorist bombings blamed on a resistance group frighten the public. People are stacked on top of each other in industrial-looking housing and urban squalor.
Among them: Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), a bored factory worker whose beautiful wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale), works for government security forces. Doug feels as if something is missing in his life, and recurring nightmares of fleeing with a woman from a shootout (Jessica Biel) are unsettling.
He decides to visit Rekall, a company that implants fake memories of a life people wish they had led. But the procedure goes wrong, and Doug suddenly finds himself on the run from the law.
Worse, he’s full of doubts and doesn’t know whom to trust. Is he who he thinks he is? Is his wife? When the girl from his dreams, Melina, suddenly appears for real, can he believe what she says?
And what about news reports, or the government, headed by Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”)? Information from Melina and others leaves doubt there as well, about whether the government or the resistance is fighting for the people.
Director Len Wiseman, who began his movie work in art direction on pictures like “Stargate” and “Independence Day,” does a terrific job of pacing this movie, which amounts to one long chase. The action sequences, including an extended fight in a maze of elevator shafts and a futuristic car chase, had me on the edge of my seat far more than the recent Batman and Spider-Man chapters.
Wiseman’s background is reflected in Oscar-caliber art direction. The movie creates a futuristic world in minute detail, yet also provides some sweeping vistas that should be jaw-dropping for any fan of science fiction. Interiors and exteriors are equally impressive.
So are Farrell, Biel and Beckinsale in roles that require each of them to show a ferocity and loyalty that audiences will buy into. They also reek of sex appeal. Farrell, in particular, spends a lot of time shirtless, and he’s in top condition for this very physical role.
Yes, there are some far-fetched plot points, a couple coincidences, some illogic that requires overlooking.
But not to the degree of most in this genre. “Total Recall” is a fun ride, even for someone who doesn’t often get into the genre.
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