Totally Recalled

The summer onslaught of sequels and remakes continues unabated, without showing signs of letting up.

One of the latest entries in Hollywood’s parade of sameness is Total Recall, a remake of the 1990 film of the same name that featured Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It’s not a bad effort, although it doesn’t have the same excitement as the original, and is still passable midsummer’s entertainment.

Like Inception, Memento and The Matrix before it, Total Recall deals with the themes of consciousness and memory.

Are we really who we think we are? Are the memories, the daily realities, our friendships, our pasts really part of us? Or are they artificially induced or implanted, illusions of the existence that we’ve come to accept as uniquely ours?

Like the 1990 original, the latest version of Total Recall is loosely based on “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, a 1966 short story by science-fiction master Philip K. Dick, whose writing also inspired 1982’s Blade Runner.

The film takes place in a futuristic world at the 21st century’s end, where most of the planet’s major population centres have been wiped out by chemical and biological warfare. All that really remains is the United Federation of Britain (UFB) and The Colony, an area around Australia.

The UFB exploits the Colony for its cheap industrial labour, who commute there daily by means of a rapid supersonic transcontinental type of transport system called The Fall, which takes on the aspect of a symbol of their oppression.

One of these workers is Doug Quaid, who toils on an assembly line welding robots. To escape his mundane existence and fulfill a fantasy of becoming a secret agent, he visits Rekall Inc., a company that implants artificial memories in the consciousness of their clients.

But as he begins the procedure, the operators find that his consciousness has already been tampered with, and that Quaid has indeed already experienced a life as an intelligence agent.

A government intent on covering its tracks once he had served his purpose has wiped out his memory of his sinister role with them, and replaced it with a more humdrum daily existence.

Quaid gradually gets in touch with his former life as an agent named Carl Hauser, and becomes aware that he still has a role to play in overthrowing the authoritarian government that rules the lives of its colonized.

There’s much shooting and explosions and falling through glass, as Quaid/Hauser tries to stay one step ahead of his government tormentors and reach the leaders of the rebellion.

Irish-born actor Colin Farrell (last year’s Fright Night and Horrible Bosses) is adequate in the lead role, but doesn’t seem to be having half the fun with it as Schwarzenegger did before him.

Similarly, director Len Wiseman does not really improve on Paul Verhoeven’s treatment before him, although Wiseman’s wife, Kate Beckinsale, does well in her role as Farrell’s wife.

There was one scene that intrigued me, as we watched Quaid/Hauser being transported to the headquarters of the rebellion’s leader.

Their futuristic conveyance looked suspiciously to me like a Toronto subway car.

Sure enough, as the film’s end credits rolled on, the film’s shooting location was ultimately revealed to be Toronto’s waterfront Pinewood Studios, which boast the largest soundstage in North America.

Total Recall plays at 6:45 and 9:15 pm at the Qwanlin Cinema, and is rated PG-13.

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