Total Recall

Directed By: Paul Verhoeven

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, and Ronny Cox

"You!  You're the same. No matter where you go, there you are.  It's always the same old you.  Let me suggest that you take a vacation from yourself.  I-I know it sounds wild.  It is the latest thing in travel.  We call it the Ego Trip."
-Bob McClane (Ray Baker)

Sometimes, your enjoyment of a movie depends completely on your ability to suspend your disbelief of the unreal.  Imagine if you couldn't suspend your disbelief during films like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, or The Matrix.  These movies would be no fun if you couldn't believe in the Force, genetically recreated dinosaurs, or an alternate computer-based reality.  The same thing can be said for the 1990 sci-fi action flick Total Recall.  You've got to open your mind to have some fun in this one.

It's 2084, and Doug Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a construction worker living on Earth.  He's afflicted with these strange dreams about Mars and some mysterious woman there.  His wife Lori (Sharon Stone) tells him to ignore these dreams, but he can't.  In fact, he wants to take a trip to Mars.  Given that a rebellion is raging on Mars against Governor Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox), Lori won't let that happen.  When he sees a commercial for Rekall, Doug sees an opportunity to get to Mars without actually going there.  Rekall is a program that implants memories into its clients' minds of vacations they've never taken and experiences they've never had.

When Doug goes to Rekall, he opts to take a package where he's a secret agent who's travelled to Mars and gotten into plenty of trouble.  When he begins the implant process, Doug reacts negatively and has a schizoid embolism.  The doctors recognize that he has actual memories of having been to Mars.  They immediately halt the treatment and wipe his brain of any memories of his visit to Rekall.  They put Doug in an automated taxi and send him elsewhere.  He runs into some of his co-workers from his construction job.  They try to assault Doug, but he kills them in retaliation. 

Returning home with blood on his hands, Doug consults with Lori.  Soon after, she attacks him and reveals that Doug is actually a secret agent who has been to Mars.  She goes on to tell him that his memories have been erased and that the agency has fabricated a new life and wife for him.  Doug flees Lori and soon finds himself on the run from other agents trying to kill him.  They're being led by Lori's actual husband Richter (Michael Ironside), who would like nothing more than to put Doug out of his misery.

Total Recall is a classic sci-fi action flick and one of the earliest movies about simulated reality.  Based on the story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick, the movie goes where few films had gone before it.  It's an innovative, old school blockbuster that tackles simulated reality and incorporates this mostly uncovered theme into a futuristic world.  Director Paul Verhoeven does a great job of creating not just Earth but Mars as well.  He does so on the grandest of scales.

The film is full of enjoyable performances as well.  Total Recall is Arnold Schwarzenegger doing what he does best.  The iconic action star kicks ass first and ask questions later.  It's Rachel Ticotin being ferociously feisty.  She doesn't take any crap from anyone and has no problem letting any and every fool know.  It's Sharon Stone being dangerously sexy.  She lures her victims in and then proceeds to beat the holy hell out of them.  It's Michael Ironside hilariously talking lots of trash.  This guy is talking the talk even if he doesn't quite walk the walk.

Admittedly, there are a few weak points in Total Recall.  The automated cab drivers are annoying as hell.  I felt like Schwarzenegger's Doug Quaid.  I wanted to beat the crap out of these bots.  Beyond this, there are a few points throughout the film during which I could not suspend my disbelief.  For example, when Doug uses some gadget to reach up his nose and pull a tracking device out of his brain, I just couldn't get on board.  I couldn’t suspend my disbelief.  How the hell can somebody reach that far into his head without doing some damage?  I know this movie was released in 1990, but the filmmakers need to step up their game in this respect.

Total Recall is one of the most inventive films of its time.  One could argue that it's a predecessor to many blockbusters we love today.  Doug's choice between the trigger and the red pill does precede Neo's choice between the red and the blue pill in The Matrix.  Doug's questioning of what's real does precede Cobb's being unable to distinguish dreams and reality in Inception.  While Total Recall does have a few problems, it's a sci-fi classic that is arguably Arnold Schwarzenegger's greatest film in the genre outside of the first two Terminator films.  Have a few wine coolers with this one because this flick gets a 0.03% rating.