Total Recall (1990)
Total Recall (1990)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.

Release Date: June 1st, 1990 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Paul Verhoeven Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, Michael Ironside, Marshall Bell, Michael Champion, Rosemary Dunsmore, Alexia Robinson, Dean Norris




he picture is a literal and figurative mindtrip, relentlessly toying with the viewer’s perceptions (and assumptions) about what is true and what is false. The main character figures things out at the same time as the audience, further confusing both parties, while simultaneously presenting a gripping mystery that isn’t betrayed too early or fumbled by a disjointed narrative. “Total Recall” is like time travel for memories and identities, brilliantly twisting the timelines of dreams, reality, and consciousness into a thought-provoking, visually absurd yet mature space opera extravaganza. It may be an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, but the intelligence found amidst the extreme science-fiction themes is entirely evident.

Douglas Quaid (Schwarzenegger) lives an unadventurous life as a construction worker with his gorgeous wife Lori (Sharon Stone). He’s always dreamed of the now habitable Mars, a planet that has been overrun with dictators, rebellions, and terrorists, all fighting over freedoms, breathable air, and precious minerals. Lori talks Doug out of a real vacation to the red planet, but the advertisements for Rekall, a company that promises vivid memories of a dream trip administered straight into the brain, boasts a promising alternative. During his session with Rekall, the memory implant and “ego trip” addition (giving him the alternate identity of a secret agent) forces him into a state of psychosis where he believes he’s actually a rogue intelligence agent fighting for the Mars revolution.

Based on the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” (facetiously titled just like “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” which became “Blade Runner” on the big screen), “Total Recall” is not a typical mindless action film. There is, nevertheless, plenty of adventurous excitement – and an undeniable attention and expertise surrounding it – especially as Quaid starts taking back his memories one body at a time, unafraid to add hand-to-hand combat, gunfights, car chases, and explosions into the mix. Humor and satire also make their way into the script, commenting not only on futuristic possibilities but also on human relationships. Weighty and eerily relevant sci-fi themes similarly pepper this riveting thriller, using deeper meanings, smart ironies, and alterations on pertinent current events to fuel the unmistakably unique premise. With director Paul Verhoeven at the helm, nothing is two-dimensional.

Also expected from the genius behind the 1987 cult classic “Robocop” is an obsessive fascination with bloodshed. Simple shootouts in an isolated corridor result in over-the-top splattering of body parts and gore; none of the various action-packed events remain untarnished from puddles of the glistening red stuff. Rob Bottin’s (“The Thing” [1982]), “Legend”) comparatively spectacular creature effects come into play when the ruthless domination of oxygen on Mars leads to cellularly disfigured humans (most memorable are a prostitute with three perfectly shaped breasts and Kuato, the leader of the mutants) and malformed monstrosities. From these outstandingly inventive prosthetics to the nonstop, volatile hullabaloo piled high with death and laugh-out-loud humor (including crazy catfights that use a bit of both), “Total Recall” is thoroughly entertaining, essential science-fiction viewing.

– Mike Massie

  • 9/10