Remakes can be a difficult endeavor. Total Recall circa 1990 -- although not a film of the Oscar award-winning variety -- has a passionate fan base that has only swelled over the years. Filmmaker Len Wiseman showed his smartness by doing two things with his 2012 Total Recall.
Wiseman removed Mars from the equation, except for a throw-away quip by Colin Farrell, our newest incarnation of Douglas Quaid and his recently discovered rebel leader Hauser alter-ego. Also, Wiseman rid the story of its campy sci-fi element that Paul Verhoeven put in overdrive in the first film. Even in the Total Recall poster... we can tell this is a stripped down version. Our new Total Recall is a pure sci-fi action, suspense fest that spends much of the movie in fifth gear going 90 miles per hour.
Farrell is magnificent. Having the audience with the actor as he learns his own backstory is a thrilling study in the Irish actor’s talent. Effortlessly balancing the razor thin line between action hero and simple man, in Wiseman’s Total Recall, the hero’s journey could easily be our own.
Although the 1990 film was a joyride beyond belief, one never could identify with Schwarzenegger as an everyman. It’s not a strike against his stellar performance. That sentiment merely stems from the fact that at that time, no matter what he did, it was completely believable that that “guy” could kill on a moment's notice.
Total Recall, circa 2012, allows an identification factor with its hero that is priceless. One minute he is fending off bad guys in ways that would make James Bond weak in the knees and the next… he is clueless as to why he is even in this situation. It could not be more identifiable.
Farrell’s Quaid is not satisfied with his life. There’s got to be more. Tirelessly working in a factory for the betterment of a society that is radically split by rich and poor, spurns him to visit a facility that gives you memories of your wildest fantasy -- Rekall.
The supporting cast does not disappoint. Kate Beckinsale owns the Sharon Stone role from the original. When Farrell’s character goes to Rekall and his old life is triggered, she effortlessly switches on a dime from doting wife to wicked villainess.
Jessica Biel surprises in the role as the rebel fighter with an obvious previous romantic relationship with Hauser. She is equally stoic, emotive and kick-ass. Bryan Cranston is the head baddie, a ruler of the futuristic world that is left after a chemical weapon war. He not only rules with an iron fist, but with ideological indifference to what’s right and wrong. For him, survival simply means remaining in control.
Farrell’s Hauser and Cranston’s Cohaagen are clearly on a collision course. In Wiseman’s mind-blowing futuristic world, that journey lies at the heart of why our Total Recall review puts the film just off the top movie remakes of all-time, firmly at number eleven on our Top 10 Remakes.