3176. Total Recall (1990)

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8.1 A brilliant blockbuster
  • Acting 8.0
  • Directing 8.1
  • Story 8.1
  • User Ratings (0 Votes) 0

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Rachel Ticotin

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Running Time: 113 mins


Total Recall is an American film about a man who inexplicably becomes the target of a brutal interplanetary conspiracy between Earth and Mars after visiting an agency to have the memories of a trip to the red planet implanted in his brain.

This movie is so, so much fun. A blockbuster of galactic proportions that brings together prophetic sci-fi storytelling and enormously enjoyable, fun-loving action, Total Recall is an absolute joy from start to finish, and easily one of the best sci-fi blockbusters of all time.

Not only can the film count on a typically brilliant performance from Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it also features an ingenious screenplay based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, with gripping mystery and twists upon twists upon twists that make it impossible to look away from Total Recall for even a second.

The movie starts out with an enthralling air of ambiguity, as we follow average Joe Douglas Quaid in his average life in a future Earth. As well as some more comic sensibilities, Total Recall starts off with all the intriguing and prophetic sci-fi of the likes of Blade Runner, with so many cool and simultaneously unnerving snapshots of the future.

Things really kick up a gear, however, when Quaid finds himself inexplicably pursued by agents of an interplanetary conspiracy. We know that there’s something to do with something going on on the planet Mars, but that’s about it, making the movie’s opening act brilliantly exciting.

Featuring amazing action from the start, Total Recall is every bit the Schwarzenegger blockbuster you want it to be, and it just keeps getting better and better throughout. Its setting makes it feel a bit like Blade Runner or even The Running Man at first, but as things progress you realise that Total Recall is a much more fun-loving sci-fi, with consistent laughs all the way through.

In fact, this is probably one of the funniest sci-fi blockbusters I’ve ever seen, and its comedy brings an immense likability and charisma to what could so easily have been just another outer space romp.

Once the story moves to Mars, it all feels very reminiscent of the original Star Wars, as Quaid becomes caught up in the rebel movement against a brutal leader. There are moments when the movie is so similar to Star Wars, in fact, that it almost seems like a deliberate callback to the classic space opera.

However, as well as its comedy, what sets Total Recall apart from Star Wars is its darker storytelling and ambiguity. Although perhaps not one hundred percent effective throughout, the screenplay plants some brilliant seeds of doubt in your mind as the story progresses, occasionally leaving you unsure of whether what you’re watching is actually real, or just part of a dream.

Couple that with entertainingly violent action and some very dark moments, and Total Recall proves an incredible blend of crowd-pleasing blockbuster entertainment and gripping, intellectual and often gritty storytelling.

Overall, I absolutely loved Total Recall. Above all, it’s a hugely entertaining movie with great action, charismatic performances and hilarious humour, while it also delivers with a gripping and often ingeniously ambiguous story, complete with gritty and violent action and some strikingly dark moments. So, that’s why I’m giving Total Recall an 8.1.

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About Author

The Mad Movie Man, AKA Anthony Cullen, writes articles and reviews about movies and the world of cinema. Since January 1st, 2013, he has watched and reviewed a movie every day. This is the blog dedicated to the project: www.madmovieman.com