Saturday 1 September 2012
(Len Wiseman, 2012) This remake of Paul Verhoeven's 1990 adaptation of Philip K Dick's "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" takes little from either piece of source material. The barest bones of the plot are used, as are a few character names, and director Wiseman throws in a couple of sly references to Verhoeven's film - there is a three-breasted prostitute, and a limb is lost in an elevator. But this is a very different film; darker, grittier and tighter. It is perhaps the closest thing to a genuine b-movie among this summers crop of blockbusters; at its heart a man-on-the-run thriller, driven along by a relentless succession of huge cgi action sequences of varying inventiveness and interest. Its world-building is adept enough; the story takes place in a future where War has rendered all of Earth uninhabitable except for Great Britain and Australia, and workers travel from the latter to the former via an immense tunnel through the earths core known as "The Fall". The two different territories steal from different dystopian visions; Britain is a towering, gleaming megacity, all flying cars and synthetic policemen, while "the colony" is an Aisan-inspired floating shantytown, filled with food karts, neon and rain-slick street markets. That reflects another big difference between this and the 1990 version; here is a film influenced by the current economic situation, where the world depicted is defined by the conflict between the rich and the poor, rather than Verhoeven's use of mutants on Mars. Onto this there is laid an espionage plot; Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a construction worker plagued by a recurring dream of another life. He visits Rekall, a company who implant memories of a more glamorous, exciting life into your mind, but his visit is interrupted by the arrival of a team of policemen. Displaying combat acumen he didnt know existed, Quaid kills them, discovers that his wife (Kate Beckinsale) is not really his wife, and now wants to kill him, and finds himself on the run with Malena (Jessica Biel), a beautiful Resistance "terrorist" who knows him as Hauser, a former Government spy turned terrorist leader. After all this, one notable scene aside, the film barely flirts with the idea of whether or not these events are real or implanted. But then it has little time for any ideas; Wiseman is too busy driving from one video game-influenced pursuit to another. A parkour-esque chase over Colony rooftops, balconies and through alleyways, a high-rise car chase over and under freeways above what was once London, a game of cat-and-mouse through elevators that go sideways as well as up and down through tunnels and vertiginous shafts, and a zero-gravity gunfight. There are scenes and beats shamelessly stolen from The Bourne Identity and Minority Report, but the world is sumptuously mounted and convincing, Farrell is a winning lead, Biel and Beckinsale are as good at the action as they are at the little drama required of them, and Bill Nighy and Bryan Cranston provide classy if underused support. It is always watchable, occasionally thrilling, and ultimately forgettable.