Monday, November 17, 2014

Movie Review #45: Total Recall

I've never watched Total Recall from the beginning. I think I've only seen it from the middle to the end, which was enough to make me interested in the movie at least. As it turns out, the beginning of the movie is absolutely important to the context of the rest of the film!

Short review: In Arnold Schwarzenegger's most personable role shy of Kindergarten Cop, we get a mind trip of an action movie that's as thoughtful as it is violent. You won't soon forget what you've seen. Check it out on Netflix.


In the future, construction worker Doug Quaid in longs to visit Mars. He dreams about it regularly: a dream of wandering the surface with a beautiful woman. However, his wife has no interest in taking a trip to Mars, so instead he decides to visit a company called Rekall. Rekall can give you all the memories of having taken a trip somewhere for a fraction of the price and without all of the hassle of actually going there.

However, something goes wrong with the memory implant due to an existing memory implant in Quaid's mind, so they send him home. Soon, Quaid is fighting for his life as the people who implanted those memories chase Quaid to the surface of Mars, where the people are fighting for their independence.


It's a fascinating thing when a movie takes what you think you know bout it and calls everything into doubt. After Quaid's malfunction at Rekall, I was suspicious about the reality of everything happening to him. What finally convinced me of the truth of his situation was how often the movie switched to the point of view of the villains. After all, if this was all in Quaid's mind, why should we be seeing the villains' point of view at all?

However, my resolve in that regard wavered when that Rekall customer service agent appeared in Quaid's hotel room. Not only does he lay out a convincing argument, but his assessment of everything that would happen afterward is completely accurate. Sure enough, in the end it's left pretty unclear if the whole thing was a dream or not, much like how the ending of Blade Runner left Deckard's identity as a replicant or a human up in the air. Which kind of makes sense, since they're both based on Phillip K. Dick works.

In any case, the ambiguity of whether or not everything happening is real adds a welcome layer of thoughtfulness on top of a very strange action movie. I was interested in the movie from the beginning due to its strangeness, but that ambiguity introduced at the beginning brought it over the top.

Plus, stop-motion effects are always interesting.

Although both this movie and the Ninja Turtles movie both came out at about the same time, this one doesn't have that same half-80s/half-90s feel. As far as its special effects go, sure, and the choice of actors definitely, but the music, the style, and even the message all seem like something from another time. Which makes sense, considering that it's supposed to be a movie about the future. However, so was Robocop, and that movie definitely had some 80s themes.

Regardless, Total Recall is a good movie. I recommend it, and it's currently on Netflix. If you watch it or have watched it, let me know: is it all a dream? Or is that just what they want you to think?

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