Total Recall (2012)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 8/18/12
Director: Len Wiseman
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, John Cho, Kaitlyn Leeb

An unnecessary, but visually dazzling update to Paul Verhoeven's original film that takes place on Earth instead of Mars. In a future where chemical warfare has destroyed most of the planet, Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a poor factory worker who is suffering from recurring nightmares of persecution. In a fit of desperation and depression, he decides to visit a facility called Rekall that can chemically implant memories, and that's when his world turns upside down. Poor Doug has already had his mind wiped before and turns out to be a double agent for both sides of an escalating political conflict. Unfortunately, he can't remember a thing about his past, and now everyone (except for love interest Jessica Biel) wants him dead.

First of all, the film is absolutely gorgeous and the art direction is superb. One of the best looking and most visually appealing films I've seen in a long time. This is director Len Wiseman's love letter to "Blade Runner" (1982) and the environment and atmosphere are intoxicating and mesmerizing. The hover car chase scene is arguably the highlight of the film, and several shots perfectly match up with scenes that I'd been dreaming up since high school. It was quite breathtaking and emotionally moving to see them finally realized on film. Colin Farrell does an adequate job as a confused intelligence agent with amazing survival skills, but the real star of the film is Kate Beckinsale, who enthusiastically sinks her teeth into a vicious bad girl role. Even though she's stuck with some terrible dialog and some unfortunate lipstick, she is utterly captivating and delightful to watch in action. She handles a gun quite well and her fight scenes are convincingly brutal. She even gets to exchange blows with Jessica Biel, which is pretty fun. I've never been a fan of Ms. Biel, but she pulls off a tough chick persona extremely well in this film and I never doubted her conviction or execution.

The film is pretty much non-stop action, except for a painfully long exposition in the middle where someone tries to convince Quaid that he is in fact still at Rekall and suffering from paranoid delusions. It takes way too long and completely derails the flow and tempo of the film. It also forces you to stop and think about the story, which isn't such a great idea. The action scenes are visually stunning and exciting to watch, even when they don't always make sense. One of the silliest bits was watching Quaid having a fist fight with an android, and actually punching it in the face. First of all, that's really going to hurt your hand, and do you really think that's going to make a difference? Overall, the film is an exciting piece of science fiction eye candy, but don't bother trying to dig under the surface.