Total Recall (12A)


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The Independent Culture

It's back to the future for this sci-fi thriller, based on a Philip K Dick story though made famous in 1990 when Arnold Schwarzenegger starred as the hapless hero whose mind has gone Awol.

In this heavy-duty remake, Earth has been reduced to a neon-lit punk dystopia whose prole population work for something called The United Federation of Britain, located at the opposite end of the planet.

Colin Farrell plays a discontented drone married to a raven-haired beauty (Kate Beckinsale) but haunted in dreams by Another Woman (Jessica Biel) whose fate may be entwined with his own. A visit to fantasy-facilitating agency Rekall blows an accidental hole through his consciousness: it seems he's not an ordinary working stiff after all but a vital cog in an anti-government insurgency, and pretty soon he's running for his life.

Design-wise it's a slicker, smarter-looking beast than the garish 1990 film – not the last on Paul Verhoeven's CV – and Farrell does a more expressive job in the lead than Arnie ever could. But for all the huffing and puffing orchestrated by director Len Wiseman it remains weirdly frictionless.

Dick's dark visions of corporate treachery, depersonalisation and control have gone though the script mincer and emerged in a flavourless puree of fights and chases. It's frenetic but dull, non-stop but non-exciting.

Bryan Cranston, peerless star of TV's Breaking Bad, is criminally wasted as the evil chancellor, while Bill Nighy as the leader of the underground resistance is the most egregious bit of miscasting this year. There is simply no universe in which Nighy would be thought fit to lead a resistance.