06 August, 2012

Review: "Total Recall" (***1/2)

Colin Farrell stars in "Total Recall"

Several factors led me to be curious about "Total Recall." I use the word curious because despite a high level of interest, there was always a good deal of hesitation. Piquing my interests foremost was Colin Farrell. While he has yet to become a massive box office draw in America, look carefully at his filmography and you will see a long list of good acting choices. Casting Bill Nighy and Bryan Cranston lent the project some more bonus points. To top it off, any Philip K. Dick story has the potential to make a great film.

Never having read any Philip K. Dick stories, I can still profess to being a fan. Several of my favorite sci-fi movies have been adapted from his works, 1990's "Total Recall" being among them. The story that has given life to both films is "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale." Based more on the short story than the 1990 film, we still see quite a few nuggets from Paul Verhoeven's sci-fi classic make their way over to Len Wiseman's film.

The film does an excellent job building the story around the social and political tension between the world's only two nation states, the United Federation of Britain (UFB) and The Colony. The screenplay gets this all right, but unfortunately fails to give the main characters much humanity. Looking back on the 1990 film, one might deem it to be too campy, considering all the silly humor mixed in. But it succeeds where this film does not. This film lacks any humor, which is most necessary for action films. The audience is left too disconnected without anything to alleviate the tension. The film certainly doesn't lack spectacular action sequences, though. While there is seldom a break to be found, Wiseman's greatest strengths are evident in the fights, chases and stunt choreography.

Plenty of credit has to be given to the actors, as well. In his first action role in nearly a decade, Farrell does a good job carrying the film with an unassuming strength. Going back to the screenplay, though, Farrell would've benefited most from some levity here and there. After all, he does have the hardest working eyebrows in the industry. The casting of Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel is also commendable. Aside from the obvious similarities in their looks, they also possess the same allure. Cranston is fun to watch as the leader of UFB, but Bill Nighy is completely underutilized as the leader of the opposition. Surely there will be some deleted scenes with Nighy on the DVD.

Visually, you are almost overloaded with cool sights. The contrast between the two nations is striking and the all-around picture of the future earth is reminiscent of "The Fifth Element" and "A.I. Artificial Intelligence." Decent sound mixing and a suitable, but light score from Harry Gregson-Williams round out the techs.

A solid pedigree, a smart cast, great visuals and some subtle references to its source materials (did anyone notice the "Two Weeks lady" look-a-like?), "Total Recall" stands a bit above your average summer fare.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

No comments:

Post a Comment