Review: “Total Recall”

My favourite film from one of my favourite directors, “Total Recall” is an absolutely superb sci-fi film and a true modern cornerstone of the genre not seen since the deeper though less entertaining “Blade Runner” nearly ten years previous.

Based on a Phillip K. Dick novel, this is an Arnie action film first and foremost giving us his usual wild stunts and gunplay, but underneath is a quite complex plot of mistaken identity (a sort of “The Bourne Identity” in space) and fantasy vs. reality issues which are very well explored.

Added to that is a near future environment which gives the filmmakers lots of chances to use FX tricks to give us “everyday near future” appliances – and they use them throughout the film to give us some great gags and original stunt sequences. Then comes Verhoeven’s signature touch giving the whole scenario a harder edge with good dashes of violence and sex (who can forget the triple-breasted girl) and you’ve got a winner – an action flick with brains, looks, excitement and fun.

Performances are solid across the board, Arnie is at his best since “Predator” and being a guy unsure of his real identity makes it easy for us to sympathise with him, whilst he blurts out some of the best one liners of his career (“consider that a divorce”). Ticotin is an excellent love interest who can hold her own against Arnie and is as tough as nails, yet brutal (you got to love a line like “I’ll bust his balls”), whilst Stone holds her own as she turns from beauty to super bitch.

Ironside is probably the most memorable in the film – here he plays the gun toting henchman to Ronny Cox, Cox is at his “Robocop” evil best, and so on – not a weak actor amongst them. The production values are superb, but its the tight story which makes this work – just when you think things are devolving into a ordinary shoot ’em up, there comes a scene (such as the visit from the Rekall guy with the pill) that’s extremely clever and well worked into the plot.

The FX are solid and interesting, even 10 years later with some astonishing Martian landscapes which no other ‘Mars’ movie has been able to emulate, and all essential to the plot. The film was made just before computer animation started taking over so your looking at robotics, makeup and optical effects at the peak of their development and so have a much more solid and real feel than if they were done using CG. Its an absolute modern day classic and a must-see even if your normally not into Arnie movies.