Thursday, June 25, 2015

Movie Review: "Total Recall" (1990)

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Movie"Total Recall"
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Year: 1990
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is living on Earth and working as a construction worker, but has always dreamed of going to Mars. He heads to a company called Rekall, which specializes in implanting fake memories of vacations and adventures, and Quaid wants one of mars. Unfortunately, during the implant procedure, something goes wrong and the technicians discover Quaid has had his memory erased. It turns out Quaid is undercover secret agent named Hauser, working for the Martian Rebels against Cohaagen (Ronnie Cox) and the agency that currently runs Mars. Quaid must get to Mars and unravel the secret of his true identity. 

"Total Recall" is a sci-fi action film that BigJ really enjoys and has for a long time. When we say "Total Recall," we don't mean the crappy new PG-13 CGI-bomb made a couple years ago that completely changes the premise of the film. We mean the 1990 version that used mostly practical effects, limited CGI and starred Arnold Schwarzenegger in all his hulkish know, the one that kicks so much ass, it just narrowly missed an X rating at the time it came out.

First of all, there is some really great makeup work in this movie. Between the Mars mutants and the famous eyeball bulging scenes, the makeup can range from gross to disturbing to downright horrifying and creepy. This being a sci-fi film, there are obviously a lot of special effects, and we like and appreciate that most are practically executed with miniatures or hand-built sets. These effects, combined with a lot of gore and frenetic pace, make the feel of the movie so much more tremendous and believable. The CGI is pretty much limited to the x-ray body scan scene, which looks amazing even today, and would be something we'd like to see in real life. It's not just the great special effects and the over-the-top graphic violence that we love about this film. It's the story, too. We aren't sure if this movie is a full-on thinker, but it definitely has a cool narrative that deals with some interesting, deeper issues than what might appear on the surface. When Douglas Quaid, played by Schwarzenegger, goes to Rekall, he requests a secret agent fantasy for his implant, and as soon as he's hooked up to their machine, his fantasy turns out to be a reality...or does it? Of course, that decision will be left up to the audience to decide as filmmakers never explicitly state if what happens to Quaid is reality or a dream. There are many implications both ways throughout the film and it depends on how much and what you want to write off as purely a coincidence. It's an eternal debate that surrounds this movie and people on either side of the argument can point out moments in the film that they claim prove it one way or the other. How many movies can you think of in recent decades that don't explicitly state what the crux of the film is, one way or the other!? It's sort of genius! In the end, it's all up to each individual viewer and their own personal opinion, and maybe how cynical they are, too. Arnold Schwarzenegger is actually very good in this movie, and though he does manage to maintain his image as the #1 one-liner spitter of all time, the film certainly isn't riddled with them like in some of his other romps; the humor seems natural and well-placed throughout its run time. Sure, his role is not one of great depth, subtlety, or nuance, but as far as what is required of him, he plays it pretty well and we believe him in it. Overall, this is an excellent science fiction film that's still fun to dig out every now and then and watch today for its great effects, its (sometimes) gory action, its exciting tone and its frenzied rush of a pace.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 84%
Do we recommend this movie:  Yes!
One year ago, we were watching: "Chef"

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