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This article is about the 2012 remake. For 1990 original film, see Total Recall (1990 film).
Total Recall is a 2012 American dystopian science fiction action film remake of the 1990 film of the same name, which was in turn loosely based on the 1966 short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick. The film centers upon an ordinary factory worker who accidentally discovers that his current life is a fabrication predicated upon false memories implanted into his brain by the government. Ensuing events leave no room for doubt that his true identity is that of a highly-trained secret agent. He then follows a trail of clues to gradually recover more suppressed memories and reassumes his original vocation with renewed dedication. Unlike the original film and the short story, the plot takes place on Earth rather than a trip to Mars and exhibits more political overtones. The film blends Western and Eastern influences, most notably in the settings and dominant populations of the two nation-states in the story: the United Federation of Britain and the Colony (Australia).
Total Recall was directed by Len Wiseman, written by Mark Bomback, James Vanderbilt and Kurt Wimmer. It stars Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Will Yun Lee and Bill Nighy. It was first announced in 2009 and was released in North America on August 3, 2012, grossing over $198 million worldwide. The film was released to lukewarm-to-negative critical reception. It received praise in certain areas such as its action sequences, but the film’s lack of humor, emotional subtlety and character development drew the most criticism.
|Spoiler Warning: The following contains important plot details of the entire film.|
At the end of 21st Century, a global war devastates the Earth. The remaining habitable territory is at minimum and is divided into two — the United Federation of Britain (UFB) and the Colony (Australia). Many residents of the Colony travel to the UFB to work in their factories via “the Fall”, a gravity elevator, which travels through the Earth. A Resistance operating in the UFB seeks to improve life in the Colony.
A factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) decides to visit Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories. Rekall employee Bob McClane (John Cho) convinces Quaid to be implanted with memories of a secret agent. Just as Quaid is starting to be implanted, Mac discovers that Quaid has real memories of being a spy. Mac and his co-workers are suddenly gunned down by a SWAT team. Quaid instinctively reacts and kills the officers before escaping. He returns home to his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale), who attempts to kill him, revealing that she is not his wife of seven years, but an undercover UFB agent who has been monitoring him for the past six weeks. Quaid manages to escape, and Charles Hammond (Dylan Scott Smith), a man claiming to be a former associate, contacts Quaid via a mobile phone embedded in his hand and directs him to a nearby safe-deposit box. Quaid cuts the phone out of his hand to avoid being traced. In the safe-deposit box, Quaid discovers a recorded message from his former self, leading him to an apartment in UFB.
While being pursued, Quaid meets Melina (Jessica Biel), the woman from his recurring dream. She helps him escape and reach the apartment. Once there, Quaid plays a piano to trigger a second recorded message which reveals that Quaid was formerly Carl Hauser, a highly skilled agent working for UFB Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston). After defecting to the Resistance movement, Hauser was captured by the UFB and implanted with false memories. The recording reveals a plot by Cohaagen to use the robotic police force to invade the Colony to provide more living space for UFB, but that Hauser had seen a “kill code” that could stop the robotic forces. The code can be recovered from his memory with the aid of the Resistance’s leader, Matthias (Bill Nighy). Melina reveals that she was Hauser’s lover, but the two got separated when Hauser was captured. The police soon surround the building, trapping Quaid and Melina. Quaid’s friend and colleague from the Colony, Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), arrives and tries to convince Quaid that he is still in a Rekall-induced dream and that killing Melina is the only way to wake up. Quaid is conflicted, but decides to shoot Harry instead after Quaid notices a bead of tear dripping from Melina’s eye.
Quaid and Melina travel to meet with Matthias. While Matthias searches the memories of Quaid/Hauser, SWAT teams led by Lori and Cohaagen burst in. Quaid, Melina and Matthias are captured. Cohaagen informs Matthias that Quaid/Hauser was secretly working for him without even knowing it, owing to the alteration of his memories, and that the kill code was a fiction to lure Matthias out of hiding. Cohaagen kills Matthias and orders Hauser’s mind restored, to make Quaid/Hauser loyal again. Quaid pleads with Cohaagen to “give these people air”. Cohaagen and Lori then take Melina away. Before Quaid’s mind is altered, Hammond, now a SWAT team member, helps Quaid escape but is killed in the process.
Cohaagen then launches his invasion of the Colony through the Fall. Quaid arrives at the Fall and manages to sneak aboard. He installs timed explosives within the Fall and searches for Melina. After freeing her, Quaid and Melina manage to climb atop the Fall as it arrives at the Colony. As Quaid and Melina fight the soldiers and Cohaagen, Quaid’s explosives detonate. Quaid and Melina jump off the Fall before it plummets beneath the surface and explodes with Cohaagen and his army still on board.
Waking up in an ambulance, Quaid is greeted by Melina. He notices the absence of a scar on her hand and realizes she is Lori in disguise (she survives from the explosion). Quaid fights Lori and kills her. He and Melina then reunite as an advertisement for Rekall plays on a billboard in the background. In the extended director’s cut, a reference is made to the missing peace sign tattoo on Quaid’s arm from Rekall at the end of the movie, hinting that the whole scenario could have been an implanted memory.
|Spoiler Warning: All spoilers have been stated and have ended here.|
- Colin Farrell as Douglas “Doug” Quaid/Carl Hauser, a factory worker suffering from strange violent dreams.
- Kate Beckinsale as Lori, a UFB undercover agent posing as Quaid’s wife.
- Jessica Biel as Melina, a member of the Resistance and Quaid/Hauser’s love interest. The extended director’s cut reveals that she is Matthias’ daughter.
- Bryan Cranston as Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen, the corrupt and ruthless Chancellor of the United Federation of Britain.
- Bokeem Woodbine as Harry, Quaid’s “best friend”.
- Bill Nighy as Matthias Lair, the leader of the Resistance.
- John Cho as Bob McClane, a rep for Rekall who offers Quaid the chance to experience an imagined adventure.
- Kaitlyn Leeb as The Three-Breasted Woman
- Steve Byers as Henry Reed, a cover for Hauser
- Ethan Hawke, as Hauser’s original appearance. In the script as originally filmed, both Hauser’s memory and physical appearance were heavily altered by the UFB to turn him into Quaid. This plot point was excised from the theatrical cut, so Hawke appears only in the extended director’s cut.
On June 2, 2009, Variety reported that Kurt Wimmer would write the script for the film. Mark Bomback also co-wrote and James Vanderbilt did a “polish” on the script. Over a year later Len Wiseman was hired to direct. Paul Cameron is the film’s cinematographer and Christian Wagner is the film’s editor. The soundtrack is a collaboration of Harry Gregson-Williams and Welsh electronica group Hybrid. Although described in the press as a “remake”, star Jessica Biel claimed in her August 2, 2012 appearance on The Daily Show that the film is not a remake of the 1990 film, but an adaptation of the original short story by Philip K. Dick. However, Biel’s own character of “Melina” was not actually present in the original short story by Philip K. Dick and only exists in this film and the original 1990 film. The same goes for the characters of Cohaagen and Harry, along with the leader of the Resistance. This version of the film also uses the names Quaid and Lori for the main character and his wife, like the 1990 film, whereas in the original short story they were Quail and Kirsten. The basic story also follows that of the original 1990 film, albeit with certain changes such as moving the action from Mars to “the Colony”.
In August 2010, Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed an interest in reprising his role as Doug Quaid until October 2010, when it was officially reported in The Hollywood Reporter that Colin Farrell was on the top of the short list, which included Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender, to play Quaid. On January 11, 2011, it was announced that Farrell had secured the role. Farrell stated in April that the remake would not be the same as Dick’s short story.
Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel were both confirmed for roles on May 25, after actresses Eva Green, Diane Kruger, and Kate Bosworth had previously been considered for Biel’s role. Actor Bryan Cranston was cast as the film’s villain. Ethan Hawke was reportedly cast in a cameo role, and commented that his character had a monologue about five pages long; however, this role was apparently later cut. Though cut from the original film, Ethan Hawke is featured in the extended version of the film. Later cast additions included Bill Nighy and John Cho.
On a reported budget of $125 million, principal photography began in Toronto on May 16, 2011, and ended on September 20, 2011. Scenes were filmed at the Pinewood Toronto Studios, as well as the University of Toronto, Lower Bay Station, CIBC Commerce Court, the University of Toronto Scarborough, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and Guelph. The film was shot with Red Epic digital cameras and Panavision anamorphic lenses. After securing the film rights from Miramax Films, Columbia Pictures distributed the film.
Box office performance
The film received mixed to negative reviews. It has a 31% “rotten” rating on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes based on 209 reviews, with the consensus stating: “While it boasts some impressive action sequences, Total Recall lacks the intricate plotting, dry humor and fleshed out characters that made the original a sci-fi classic.” At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 43, based on 41 reviews, which indicates “mixed or average reviews.” Critics cited Total Recall‘s action sequences as “visually impressive”.
Joe Williams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gave the film a positive review stating: “The richly constructed first hour is so superior to any feat of sci-fi speculation since “Minority Report” that the bland aftertaste of the chase finale is quickly forgotten.” Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four, praising its details, he stated: “Total Recall is well-crafted, high energy sci-fi. Like all stories inspired by Philip K. Dick, it deals with intriguing ideas. It never touched me emotionally, though, the way the 1990 film did, and strictly speaking, isn’t necessary.” Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune also gave the film a positive review, stating that “the movie marches in predictable formations as well. But when Biel’s rebel pulls over in her hover car and asks Farrell if he’d like a ride, your heart may sing as mine did.”
Justin Lowe of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a mixed review, saying that “the outcome is engaging enough, although not entirely satisfying from either a genre or narrative standpoint, lacking both substance and a degree of imagination.” Amy Biancolli of the San Francisco Chronicle also gave the film a mixed review, stating: “For all of its dazzlingly rendered cityscapes and nonstop action, this revamped Total Recall is a bland thing—bloodless, airless, humorless, featureless. With or without the triple-bosomed prostitute.” Jen Chaney of The Washington Post gave the film two-stars-out-of-four, saying: “So what makes this 2012 Total Recall superior to the Arnie model? For starters, there’s an actual actor in the starring role…. Still, this Recall has more than its share of flaws.” Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film “C”, stating that “this one is somberly kinetic and joyless.” Justin Chang of Variety gave the film a mixed review: “Crazy new gadgets, vigorous action sequences and a thorough production-design makeover aren’t enough to keep Total Recall from feeling like a near-total redundancy.”
Kyle Smith of the New York Post gave the film a negative review, stating: “As for a villain, you could do worse than Bryan Cranston as the evil political overlord who is trying to stamp out the resistance… But… When he goes mano a mano with Farrell, it’s not spine-tingling. It’s embarrassing, like watching a dude beat up his dad.” Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also gave the film a negative review, stating that “since the new Recall is totally witless, don’t expect laughs. Originality and coherence are also notably MIA.”
A 3D top-down action video game of the same name for iPhone and iPad was released as a tie-in to the film.
TOTAL RECALL – Official Trailer – In Theaters August 3rd
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