Monday, August 6, 2012

Total Recall

Is the new “Total Recall” remake as good as the original? No. It’s several times better. I have liked Ah-nold in certain action vehicles (“The Running Man”) and especially in the right kind of self-referential and self-deprecating comedy (“The Last Action Hero”), but let’s not mince words: With legendary German hack Paul Verhoeven (“Showgirls,” “Starship Troopers”) at the helm, the 1990 film was a mess.

By contrast, director Len Wiseman, adapting the classic Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” has taken his $125 million budget and put every penny of it on the screen, creating a dystopian and malevolent but completely beautiful and fully realized vision of the future. My eyes popped at the lushness and grandeur of Wiseman’s United Federation of Britain on one hand and The Colony on the other, but also at the intricacy of the detail, how thoroughly Wiseman and his crew have imagined the structure of these worlds (especially their verticality). Rarely does a movie have this much going on in different parts of the screen; it’s absolutely fascinating.

For the first 75 minutes, I just sat back, propped my feet up on the seat in front of me, and watched with a smile on my face. For one thing, Colin Farrell has cleaned up nicely after an extended stage of scruffiness bordering on the unhygienic. He’s not called upon here to flex the acting muscles he showed in his slyly comic, Golden Globe-winning performance in “In Bruges,” but he’s shaved and had a haircut, and the effect is to impart to him some of the sleek, aero sexiness of Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in the first “Mission: Impossible” picture. He’s once again a credible action leading man.

The story fucks with your mind enjoyably for those first 75 minutes. In one scene in particular, Farrell has to make a snap decision as to which of two ostensible friends is actually on his side. The tension builds exquisitely, and once he makes his choice, the action – and the mind-fucks – don’t miss a beat. Unfortunately, the final 40 or 45 minutes do drag, and keep the movie from the loftiest heights. But I’ll soon forget the plotlines; not so the gorgeous visuals that make this “Total Recall” a must-see.

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