Total Recall, a remake of a 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi film, is being savaged by a majority of critics who say it pales in comparison to the original. From what I can tell, however, the constant complaints are that the film follows the first version too closely while omitting its gory violence, a trip to the planet Mars, and cheesy “Ah-nuld” one-liners. Having not experienced the R-rated original, I saw this PG-13 version with fresh eyes, and it is an imaginative and thrilling sci-fi film.
Colin Farrell (The Recruit) stars as a factory worker in a post-apocalyptic future whose life may or may not be real. His memories may have been implanted to conceal his true identity from himself, or his visions of a violent past as a secret agent may be the implants. Jessica Biel (The Illusionist) stars as a freedom fighter with whom he shares nice chemistry (even if the run-and-gun screenplay barely slows down enough for that to develop) while Kate Beckinsale (Serendipity) steals the show with a relentless and physically-demanding performance. The story is intriguing, though the emphasis on nonstop action means that many fascinating concepts go unexplored and the second half becomes fairly predictable. The screenplay could have used more humor. Still, the action by director Len Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard) is thrilling while the futuristic world on display is stunning to behold.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Total Recall is rated PG-13. It has one f-word, several improper uses of the Lord’s name, and a fairly steady stream of s-words. Though the heroes fight for a good cause and the action is mostly bloodless, there is constant violence in the form of gunfights, fistfights, and stabbings. A man and his wife wake up in bed, talk, and kiss before they’re interrupted; he’s shirtless and she’s in a tank top and panties. A completely unnecessary moment has a three-breasted prostitute flashing the protagonist; we see all three bare breasts for half a second, just long enough to burn into the memory. This is supposedly a call back to the R-rated 1990 version. It happens very fast, so viewers who decide to see the film should watch the trailer below; it includes the entire brief exchange (without the half-second moment of nudity) so that when it happens viewers can known when to look away. MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: No matter who you’ve been in the past, it’s never too late to be a better person. Fighting, even killing, is justified to protect the innocent from tyranny, oppression, and death.