Total Recall: was it all a dream? (science fiction film retrospective).
Ah, the original 1990 scifi film Total Recall, the movie that poses the age-old question of whether or not we are actually living in reality or something else? But when we have Arnold Schwarzenegger shooting his way to Mars, who needs that philosophical argument?
If you haven’t seen it, Total Recall is a P.K. Dick-book-based movie about a construction worker named Douglas Quaid who longs for an adventure outside of his ordinary existence. He travels to a business that puts memories of fantastical experiences into people’s heads, but something goes awry during the treatment, and Quaid realises he might already be in a dream.
In this role as the ultimate action hero, Schwarzenegger is in top form, delivering lines with his trademark deadpan humour and bulging muscles. He’s so skilled at it that he even sells the notion that a labourer in construction may turn become a secret agent and travel to Mars to overthrow a villainous ruler.
Total Recall, however, is remarkable for many reasons than only Schwarzenegger’s performance. You’ll be horrified and entertained by the movie’s realistic effects, which include horrifying robotic creatures and deadly shootouts. Not to mention the memorable moment in which Quaid poses as a woman with a huge head and a voice that is both horrifying and humorous.
Moreover, there is a love triangle present, with Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin competing for Quaid’s attention. The act Stone gives as Quaid’s outwardly nice wife is exceptional, especially when she shows her true self: a deadly assassin.
This film may not be the most thought-provoking science fiction movie ever made, but it is aware of what it is and embraces it wholeheartedly. It’s the ideal fusion of adventure, levity, and absurdity, with just the right amount of ambiguity to keep you thinking long after the credits have rolled.
Consider this as another evidence that you should watch Total Recall: It received the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, proving that even the Oscars enjoy a good head-exploding sequence.