Keep It Reel Reviews

Reel People. Reel Reviews.

Total Recall (1990)

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Rated: R

1 hr 53 mins

Staff Writer: Nathaniel Brayton

In preparation for the two reboots/remakes of Total Recall and Judge Dredd, we recently rented and screened the two original films. Total Recall is up first; is it a dream within a dream within a dream or is it reality?

The mildly confusing story goes as such; Douglas Quaid, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, dreams of going to Mars. Little does he know, he has already been there (or that’s what the movie leads you to believe). One day after seeing a commercial, Quaid goes to a company, Rekall, which claims that they can implant the memories of any vacation, making it seem like the person was actually there. No hassle, just the great memories. After his implantation of going to Mars as a spy goes array, he learns, with the help of others, that he was a soldier, lived on Mars, and his brain was washed because it contained very important information that someone tried to hide. Now that he knows his ‘true’ identity, there are people trying to capture him to extract that vital information. However, he escapes, goes to back to Mars and learns that the planet is being oppressed by one man who controls everything, even the air. A long series of events happens where, Quaid meets the mutants of Mars who are trying to rebel against their dictator, Cohaagen, and he also finds his true love. The twist comes at the end where everything that came before was just an elaborate hoax to try to get Quid, whose was previously an assistant/friend of Cohaagen’s, to infiltrate the rebels and kill their leader.

The great thing about Total Recall is the amount of time and detail that went into making a believable universe. At first, the audience gets to see a part of the culture back on Earth, very modern yet similar to life now, while slowly being introduced to the corrupt government, if you can call it that, of Mars. And, after Quaid gets back to Mars, the audience is introduced to the radically different culture, consisting of oppression, war, and mutant slums. There are riots and uprisings happening all of the time all over the planet, led by this mysterious man who no one has ever seen. Overall, the film subtly provides a great deal of information leading to a more believable experience.

Total Recall does a great job of leaving the audience guessing, which is a sign of great film making for me. For the majority of the film, I never had any clue as to who was good/bad or what was reality and what wasn’t. And for that one person after every movie who says, ” I saw that coming.” Dont lie. Don’t be that person. We can all see through you.

Something, I wasn’t too fond of was an ending line, where Arnold says something like, “I hope this wasn’t all a dream” and then his love interest says to “hurry up and kiss me just in case it is”. Now, I understand that the point of the film was to generate discussion of whether or not he was still in the Rekall machine or it he was in reality, but I don’t like when films try to leave the ending so ambiguous. If we took that line out of the film, I would have entertained the notion that it could have been all a dream but then concluded that it was reality. By adding those lines, an audience member never gets to make a solid judgement of their own. They never get closure.

Even with that little gripe, the story telling was really well done. Arnold did a decent job, better than I thought he would, at acting. And the special effects/makeup were very creative, disturbing, and very believable. Judging this film from an action perspective, it provides the audience with a great futuristic environment to explore and is deeper than most other action flicks. However, something is holding me back and I can’t seem to justify giving it more than

7.5 out of 10

“If I am not me, then who the hell am I?”

The trailers for the new total recall have made me pretty excited. Are you going to go see it?


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