Total Recall

Directed by Paul Verhoeven

1990

Plagued by dreams of Mars, Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) goes to memory implant service Rekall. Now he is running for his life. Is he a lowly construction worker? Or is he a spy named Hauser who is part of an interplanetary plot?

Ronnie Cox stars as Vilos Cohaagen. He was such a great villain actor. He still is actually. The last villain role though I saw him play and I admit it was a few years ago was as Senator Kinsey in Stargate SG1. The man still has it as shown there. Cohaagen is the governor of Mars who so long as he keeps the rare mineral turbinium flowing from the mines can do pretty much as he pleases.

The always dangerous looking Michael Ironside shows up in this movie as the chief threat Richter. The man is intense and has a threatening presence on the screen. Richter cares little for Cohaagen’s plans and just wants to kill Quaid/Hauser since the woman monitoring Quaid is HIS wife. His character is all rage and violence.

And who can forget Arnold Schwarzenegger as the world’s most muscular construction worker who does not use hearing protection while operating his jackhammer? Weird things you would only find in a Schwarzenegger movie of the time aside, he does a good job here. Schwarzenegger is in top form handling the action, but he also does a good job handling Quaid. That is especially so in Quaid’s first kill. Quaid goes through a mix of emotions when he sees his wife Lori (Sharon Stone) right after he kills his would-be assassins. He is excited and a little confused and maybe just a touch disoriented.

Schwarzenegger has just as much chemistry with his fake wife Lori as he does with literal dream girl Melina (Rachel Ticotin). The probability of each life being real hinges in large part on Quaid/Hauser clicking with his love interest while he is the appropriate identity with them. If he did not the whole film would have fallen apart. Melina for her part is a more fleshed out character than Lori is in or out of the spy life. Lori just feels like a two-dimensional character existing to give the male leads some motivation to be against each other. While there is a Lori/Quaid connection, the character of Lori is not much fleshed out in either identity.

I must note amazing character actor Marc Alaimo here as Martian Captain Everett. His was not a huge part but the man is a fine actor and he was always a scene stealer in my opinion. I cannot name everything he did but there was a time he looked to be in everything I watched at least once. I am a fan of his and always get a little excited when I see something with him in it. It is my understanding he has retired so everything I watch with him tends to be a trip down memory lane these days.

This is an amazing movie and as laughable as it may sound, Total Recall is probably Arnold Schwarzenegger’s deepest film by being an action film built around a deep concept. I am not talking about aliens leaving a million-year-old machine on Mars but rather the idea of what exactly makes us who we are. Are we the sum of our experiences or is there more to it than that? Identity is a deep topic that is the foundation of the plot.  And the movie benefits from not talking down to the viewer too much.

The script by the time of production had gone through a reported 42 drafts but still is well done. The story is an action-oriented piece that leaves you thinking. I am not sure if Schwarzenegger really did anything like this before or since. Was Quaid dreaming in a chair at Rekall? What makes us who we are? Few action movies leave us with any deep thoughts or even much to discuss concerning the story. They may be memorable. They may be horrible, but they do not often leave you thinking. This one does. And best of all it gives you something to talk about.

Total Recall is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best roles. It is his most thinking action film and one of his finest performances. It is one of those movies that does not age and a lot of the credit goes not only two Schwarzenegger’s unique screen presence but to the direction of Paul Verhoeven as well as the story within. This is far and away superior to the remake from a few years ago.

One of the nice touches of the movie is that it does not end on a definitive note. We never really know for sure if Quaid is completing a hallucination or if he really was Hauser and that everything that happened was because of a plot to infiltrate the Martian rebellion.

The movie does a great deal to make you uncertain of what exactly is going on. Even before the action starts, reactions by the characters make you feel as if they are not who they seem. Harry (Robert Costanzo) from Quaid’s work (who is reframed as an assassin after the visit to Rekall) reacts almost as if he is looking at Quaid to gage his reaction after the lobotomy story. Lori is not only passionately against going to Mars but is upset and accusatory over a woman her husband only knows from a dream. Why would either matter if Quaid was Quaid and not Hauser? When Rekall’s Dr. Edgemar (Roy Brocksmith), who was only seen on TV and never encountered prior definitively by Quaid /Hauser until he shows up, gets to the hotel he correctly points out just how ridiculous everything is but then why would he perspire if nothing was real? And the ending cuts out just before Ticon and Schwarzenegger kiss as if to imply Quaid/Hauser was waking up. But you could also take that as an artistic ending. In the end nothing is definitive.

Visually the movie is still amazing. The security area on earth with the skeleton outlines is just top-notch even by today’s standards. And with Mars they created such a unique and impressive environment. What we have throughout this film is a lived-in world with a history to it. That is the feel you get by looking at it. We have the red-light district of Venusville. Mines cover Mars and tombs are built in them.

The three boobed hooker and Kuato who is attached to George (Marshall Bell) are things people quickly recall about this movie along with the character death throws while exposed to the Martian environment. Johnny Cab (voiced by Robert Picardo) and the tracker from the nose pop into people’s minds when talking about this film. And of course, there are the usual Schwarzenegger noises and one liners as well. A movie must have memorable content to withstand the test of time and this has more than most.

Total Recall is an amazing film. It is a science-fiction action classic that gives you something to discuss. It is a movie that is just as good today as when it was in theaters so many years ago. This is a classic.

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

2 thoughts on “Total Recall

  1. I think Total Recall absolutely only makes any sense if its all a pulp-inspired fantasy courtesy of the boffins at Recall- the cartoonish Mars straight out of Princess of Mars etc, the lying wife, the bad guys, much of the tech- and I think its underlined by the Hollywood “save the world, get the girl” happy ending/fade to white. That being said, its ambiguous enough to have other readings, but I think anyone thinking all of it ‘really’ happens is just crazy and too easily pleased, there’s plotholes and logic gaps all over the place.

    I will just add, and you may have read of this on my blog, but I’ll add it here anyway- Total Recall remains one of the most amazing cinema experiences of my life. I was lucky enough to see it at an advance screening the weekend before it officially came out, at a midnight Saturday showing. It was full to the rafters with ravenous Arnie fans that were vocal throughout; a wild, rowdy atmosphere (when Arnie awakes and cuddles up to Sharon Stone at the beginning, someone yelled “Go on, Arnie, giver her one!” to rapturous applause) and the whole atmosphere, the wild cheering and applause at every set-piece was never equalled. I can never rewatch the film without having dizzy flashbacks to that night, its partly why I still enjoy the film so much.

    And the Jerry Goldsmith score, just magnificent and so in-tune with that wild evening.

    Liked by 1 person

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