With the Curiosity rover recently landing on Mars, it seems like the red planet is a hot topic again. So what better movie is there to watch than the mind-bending classic, Total Recall, which is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best film of all time? You’re right, there is no better movie. So Total Recall it is! God, I love this film.
Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver, and Total Recall are my three favorite movies of all time. And while Total Recall never gets the respect that the first two films receive, it should, since it’s one of the smartest movies Hollywood has ever produced. And while you may think that that comment alone throws all of my credibility as a film critic right out the window, you need to stop. The only reason you think that way is because it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, who most associate with lines like “Get to da choppa!” and “I’ll be back.” Sure, the movie does verge on being outright silly, with Arnold S spouting one-liners like “Consider dat a divorce,” but that doesn’t keep the film from being a heady wonder, rivaled only by a film like Inception in the past few years.
What makes Total Recall so good is its ambiguity mixed in with its suspense and action. Douglas Quaid (Schwarzenegger) is a construction worker on Earth who dreams of a life of adventure on Mars. Most people would have to be content with their dreams, but in the world of Total Recall, which was loosely based on Phillip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” there’s actually a way to live out those dreams, and that way is through a company called REKALL. The company will implant memories of pretty much any experience you could want, and Quaid opts for an adventure as a secret agent. But something goes terribly awry, and all throughout the film, you're left to wonder if Quaid really is a secret agent, or if he's simply living out the experience Recall implanted in his mind. There are hints that suggest either possibility (unlike in the abysmal recent remake, but I won’t get into that), but the ambiguous ending refuses to give you a simple answer. In fact, it makes it all the more perplexing. This is a thinking man’s picture. This is not Red Heat or Commando. This is a work of smarts! It’s a masterpiece of bullets and brains.
That’s why Total Recall is amazing. It’s as thought-provoking as it is action-packed. There seriously isn’t a more violent film I can think of that left me totally spellbound at the end. Along with Robocop and Starship Troopers, director Paul Verhoeven really hit his stride with these films, and they’re probably the most cerebral motion pictures of the '80s and '90s. I’m dead serious. And Total Recall is the best out of the three. So, what are you waiting for? “Get your ahss to Mahs” and pick up this excellent picture.
I love Total Recall so much that I probably would have given the special features four stars even if they only consisted of a scene selection. But fortunately, these special features are pretty damn good. Unfortunately, though, most of them are from the previous DVD release. So really, I don’t know what’s so "mind-bending" about it. Perhaps it’s the fact that the only truly new feature that I can see here is the “Restoration Comparison.” Other than that, I’ve seen pretty much all of these before. A few more additions would have been nice, but oh well. It’s a 22-year-old movie. What more could I really expect?
The highlight is definitely the commentary with director Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger. They basically describe every single thing that’s going on in the movie at the time that it’s playing, so it’s hilarious. It’s also interesting to hear them discuss whether they think the movie is a dream or not, with the director definitely leaning in the “It’s a dream” direction. “Interview with Director Paul Verhoeven” is just that, and it’s pretty candid, with him even saying that while Arnold wasn’t all that great of an actor during filming, he had a lot of charisma, which is all they needed to get by at the time. A “Making-of Featurette” shows just how special the effects were back in 1990, and “Models and Skeletons: The Special Effects of Total Recall” goes even more in depth with some of the more amazing scenes in the film. They look simplistic today, but they were also more organic back then, which makes it better in my eyes.
“Imagining Total Recall” is a great documentary talking about how hard it was to get the movie made, as it was once plagued by a terrible third act that took forever to get fixed. The “Restoration Comparison” mentioned earlier shows just how far Blu-ray can push a disc. Rounding it off is the trailer and a photo gallery. It’s all good stuff, but I just wish more of it was new. Overall, it’s a great disc, but reconsider if you already have the movie on DVD.