In a future world where over-population is the biggest problem, Douglas Quaid feels like something is missing from his life. He visits ‘Rekall’, a service that specialises in implanting false memories but just as the process begins, he is attacked by people who want him dead and he discovers he has never lived the life he remembers so well. Quaid must go on the run to discover who he is, who he was, and whether or not this is all just inside his head.
Total Recall (2012) – Director: Len Wiseman
Running Length: 118 mins
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Thriller
‘Total Recall’ (2012) seemed like an exciting prospect. Whilst there is a lot of charm to the 1990 version starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, its ultra-violent content and overtly sexual themes (ensuring it received an 18 certificate), to some extent sidelined the smart plot which explored the nature of memory and perception. The original source material is from a short story called ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’ by the ever paranoid classic author, Philip K. Dick. Dick often wrote about worlds where the characters would doubt their own perceptions of reality. Quaid (played by Farrell) is stuck in a rut and pays a visit to ‘Rekall’ to have false memories of being a spy implanted into his mind so he can enjoy some excitement. However, when people around him start getting murdered and he is forced to go on the run, how much can he trust his own mind when this is exactly the experience he paid for? Unfortunately this element is once again downplayed in favour of all out action and whereas the 1990 version had some character, pacing and depth behind all the violence, this remake is lacking in any kind of warmth or depth. The same set pieces are dealt with as before but Farrell never really feels like a man doubting his own memory.
The new plot backdrop of a dystopian world where only the United Federation of Britain and The Colony (Australia) survive tries to introduce political power plays but this never really engages any interest other than providing a reason to travel to the next big-money set piece. The film certainly looks gorgeous. The multi-layered cities are dirty and crumbling. The magnetic cars thunder along overlapping freeways and the mobile phone surgically implanted into the hand is a nice touch. Despite its good looks, without any warmth directed at the characters, it becomes hard to get emotionally invested. Everyone curses like swearing is about to go out of fashion and just pinwheels from one explosion to the next. ‘Total Recall’ feels like it is trying to be another ‘Minority Report’ (incidentally, also written by Phillip K. Dick) but where the latter paused to allow the concept time to breathe, ‘Total Recall’ ends up becoming another generic action movie with fancy technology. It’s perhaps apt that a film about memory should be so overly familiar.
IS ‘TOTAL RECALL’ (2012) SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
In the opening scene, Quaid is regaining consciousness. He has blood over his face and on his shirt. The scene quickly becomes one with much shooting and several guards are hit with bullets, although there is no blood. A woman is shot in the hand and we do very quickly see the impact but this is not particularly gory. She falls down a deep gap out of shot as the scene cuts away but we see her to be very afraid and screaming.
The whole opening of the movie is full-on action with guns, running and shouting so if your child is unhappy with this scene, then we recommend you do not continue as this tone will continue throughout. We also think it is important to know that this sequence features continuous strobe lighting. Other later scenes show people being shot and writhing as each bullet hits. At least two characters are shot with a bullet going straight through the head and we see the impact as a red entry wound appears in their forehead. The camera cuts away quickly, but the injury is clearly seen and the person drops down, dead.
There are some knife wounds in the movie. Quaid at one point jams a knife into his hand in order to cut out a phone that is surgically implanted into his palm. The entry is partially obscured but Quaid winces in pain and other characters around him screw up their faces in reaction. There is then a close up shot of him pulling out some glowing technology from his hand in a mild bloody moment which lasts around 5 seconds.
Other associative violence includes a news report which mentions that a bomb has gone off on a train. The footage shows a fireball ripping through the train and although we do not see any bodies the voice over says that the bomb went off “moments after commuters boarded” and that the “death tolls stands at 104 and rising”. Also there are many action movie type explosions, car chases and guns throughout, but we have highlighted the strongest examples above.
Near the start of the movie there are some scenes showing Quaid first going to work and then to a bar with his work friend. During these opening 15 minutes we were originally keeping a tally of all the curse words used but must admit that come the bar scene we stopped counting. Moderate to strong swearing is used constantly throughout Total Recall and is impossible to avoid. Around half-way through the movie one strong curse word is used and there is also constant general blasphemous cursing.
After the bar scene mentioned above Quaid visits what appears to be a red light district. We see various girls dancing in a sexy way. Quaid is approached by a woman asking if he wants to have a good time. She pulls open her top revealing three naked breasts in a full frontal shot that lasts around 5 seconds. Similarly, earlier in the movie, Quaid wakes up next to his wife (played by Kate Beckinsale). He is topless and she is wearing a t-shirt and underwear. They kiss passionately and she leaves, but this is very mild in content. After these two parts there is no more sexual content.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
Although ‘Total Recall’ has been rated 12 (as opposed to the 1990 version’s 18 rating) that is not to say that it has been made friendlier for a younger audience. There is constant swearing throughout, a lack of humour or light relief and a large amount of people get shot (albeit there is almost no blood). ‘Total Recall’ delivers a perfectly competent, if overly straight-faced, action movie which is fact-paced and full of energy. Due to the adult tone of the movie, the violence, swearing and sexual moments we would advise that ‘Total Recall’ is not appropriate for children under 12.
- Violence: 4/5 (although there is minimal blood and gore the violence is constant)
- Emotional Distress: 1/5
- Fear Factor: 0/5
- Sexual Content: 5/5 (although it is only in one scene, a woman’s naked chest is exposed on camera)
- Bad Language: 5/5 (constant moderate swearing, blasphemy and one strong curse word)
- Dialogue: 0/5
- Other notes: Deals with themes of identity, memory, war mongering and espionage
Words by Mike Record