September 15th 2012

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Articles from this issue:

LEGAL AFFAIRS: No place for Sharia law in Australia

EDITORIAL: Gillard's flawed plan to fix our schools

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Labor promises grandiose schemes it can't deliver

ENVIRONMENT: Is the Arctic sea ice in "a death spiral"

BANKING: Big four banks overdue for a shake-up

MARRIAGE: State push for same-sex unions could trap Nicola Roxon

TASMANIA: Euthanasia: the ultimate in elder abuse

SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE: New light shed on Russia's "other" spy agency

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: Justice Mason's role in the 1975 Whitlam dismissal

SCHOOLS: Constant practice needed to acquire basic skills

SOCIETY: Plans for World Congress of Families in Sydney next May

OPINION: Immigrants: a compassionate alternative


CINEMA: Futuristic sci-fi action set after global war

BOOK REVIEW Scholarly tour de force

BOOK REVIEW The impact of the sexual revolution

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Futuristic sci-fi action set after global war

News Weekly, September 15, 2012

Total Recall (rated M), a remake of the 1990 film of the same title, is reviewed by Symeon Thompson.

Total Recall is enjoyable sci-fi film entertainment, full of vim and vigour and violence. While not being earth-shattering in its intellectual or creative sophistication, it’s jolly good fun with a dose of political philosophy and philosophical psychology thrown in for good measure.

It’s the end of the 21st century, when global war has devastated most of the world, leaving inhabitable only two areas — the United Federation of Britain (Europe) and the Colony (Australia). Living space is at a premium, and the chief mode of transport between the two nations is a geo-elevator that shoots through the Earth’s core going from one side to another.

The bright and shining, hyper-civilised Federation is constantly rocked by devastating terrorist attacks. The Colony is a mess of misbehaviour and moral malaise, with a mish-mash of arbitrary practical architecture.

Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell, brooding his way through) is a factory worker haunted by odd nightmares and the seeming lack of achievement in his life. He is married to Lori (the slinky and seductive Kate Beckinsale), a gorgeous, well-spoken emergency services worker with great responsibility.

In an effort to escape the dreariness and despair, Quaid goes to Rekall — a place where memories are implanted, thus giving one the recollection of anything they want. But something goes wrong. The building is assaulted by a squad of elite troops, and somehow Quaid, the factory worker, manages to take out the entire squad single-handed.

Thus begins a rollicking adventure with many explosions, gun battles, chases, twists, turns and deceits — and a few fetching women fighting it out in quite a dynamic manner.

In a case of exquisite irony, this reviewer cannot recall the original 1990 film, adapted from a short story, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (1966), by Philip K. Dick, and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger — apart from a few iconic scenes.

Colin Farrell in Total Recall

Colin Farrell in Total Recall

Thus, unburdened of the weight of comparison with past “masters”, at least in the estimation of sci-fi fanboys, this review can attempt to be objective. Initial reports suggested that this film would be more inspired by the story; but as time has passed these reports have changed and re-changed, and the credits do little to clear things up.

Total Recall is certainly not a bad film. The adrenaline keeps pumping; the score keeps the film rolling along; and the cinematography, thankfully not in 3D, makes the most of clarity and computer-generated images. It all looks and sounds quite good, without being aesthetically mind-blowing.

The cast is uniformly good, working from quite a polished script that aims, and succeeds, in being as cinematic as possible. It’s not Bergman, but it’s certainly not balderdash.

Bryan Cranston, most famous for his roles in Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad, brings a certain something to the role of Chancellor Cohaggen, and Jessica Biel is intriguing and alluring as the mysterious Melina.

Hitlerian parallels abound with some simple critiques of the “end justifying the means” and such like. It clearly pinpoints personal identity as being anchored in present action and decision-making, not tying it to an individual’s past deeds, which is all well and good; but this certainly isn’t Chesterton or Asimov, seeking to make a grand point about human nature through the use of a rippin’ good yarn.

This is a big-budget actioner that fulfils the central role of such pop culture portrayals. To wit, it clearly identifies the differences between good and evil, and makes man responsible for his choices and life. He can redeem himself through good acts and repentance, or he can be trapped in blind obedience to iniquity and injustice.

It wouldn’t have taken much to make this film more sophisticated. Being an adventure yarn, it does not have the full extent of the tragic that could otherwise be possible, if, say, it was made by a Darren Aronofsky or a Steven Soderberg. Or it could have a richer grandeur if it were made by Mel Gibson or Peter Jackson. But it’s not. It’s a product of the modern studio system and as such is pretty decent fare.

Keeping the adventure on planet Earth, rather than shifting between Earth and Mars, as happened in the 1990 movie, adds to the political parallels. Australia should feel privileged that it’s one of the two places to survive a catastrophic global war, although comments could be made about Australia being seen as a den of iniquity and filth.

All in all, Total Recall is an enjoyable enough entertainment, even if it might have been a lot better. The lads will certainly get a kick out of the biffo, and the ladies ought to be impressed by the pivotal role women play.

It’s a filmic fantasy about good versus evil, with a few twists, and is certainly not worthy of product recall — at least not totally.

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