Director Len Wiseman’s “Total Recall,” in theaters Friday (August 3), has little in common with the Mars-centric Arnold Schwarzenegger original, but that doesn’t mean the trip to the Sony reboot isn’t worthwhile. But even as it attempts to stay closer to the original Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” that the first “Recall” was based on, there are certainly callbacks to Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 punch-fest that die-hard fans will find impossible to ignore.
A sci-fi slug-out with a clear vision of the future, the Colin Farrell-starring “Recall” kicks the summer movie season’s final month off with explosive fury. Here are five reasons to check it out this weekend.
Even without Mars, you know the shape of the story: guy suffering from violent dreams soon realizes he’s not the man he thought he was, but a key figure in a rebel resistance fighting against a tyrannical regime. What you might not know is the difference between the worlds of the two “Recall” films. Wiseman’s vision feels reminiscent of Steven Spielbeg’s “Minority Report,” also based on a Philip K. Dick yarn. Synthetic soldiers populate the streets, buildings are suspended in midair, vehicles prefer the skies to the road. You’ll hurt yourself if you think too hard about how all of these technological advancements can be achieved in a dystopian post-World War III 2084, but the eye-candy is all there for you to devour.
One of the biggest set pieces of Wiseman’s “Recall” is a transportation system called The Fall, essentially a bullet train that takes passengers from the oppressed Colony to the upscale United Federation of Britain on the other end of the world. Literally on the other end of the world, too; the train passes through the molten core of the Earth, a portion of the trip that puts passengers in a zero-gravity situation. And as “Inception” taught us, whenever zero-gravity is involved, you know an action scene is bound to follow. “Recall” has no shortage of action, but without spoiling too much, the moment that zero-gravity kicks in on The Fall is a standout in the film.
The Heroine And Villainess
Farrell gets top billing in “Recall,” but it’s his two co-stars Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel who truly stand out in the cast. Beckinsale plays Lori, a highly trained operative posing as Quaid’s wife; her actions are questionable and, at times, show her to be one of the more misguided villains in recent blockbuster memory, but Beckinsale chews on the role and comes out with a magnetic performance. Her character-changing beat-’em-up against Farrell stands out as the film’s best action scene, even eclipsing the aforementioned zero-gravity scene. Biel isn’t quite as electric as the heroic Resistance fighter Melina, but she’s tough and badass in ways that give Farrell’s conflicted Quaid a run for his money.
If there’s anyone who tops Beckinsale in “Total Recall,” it is, unsurprisingly, Bryan Cranston. Best known to television viewers as cancer-stricken chemist turned meth-cooking drug kingpin Walter White on “Breaking Bad,” Cranston repeatedly proves himself to be one of the best working actors in the business today. It’s no exception in “Recall.” The repeat Emmy-winner’s time on screen as the warmongering Cohaagen is brief compared to Beckinsale, but Cranston brings enough weight to the role that you’ll forgive any improbable plot twists so long as he’s ripping his scene partner apart.
Mars isn’t in sight this time around, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t connections between the two “Total Recall” films. Even ignoring the shared source material, there are countless Easter eggs in the new “Recall” that call back to the “Recall” of old. Keep an eye out for classic lines from the original, unique costume and identity changes, and yes, even a nod or two to the Red Planet. There’s no sign of the Johnny Cab or Kuato, sadly, but on the bright side, we’re pretty sure the three-breasted woman won’t go unnoticed.
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