Starring Colin Farrell (“In Bruges,” “S.W.A.T.”), Kate Beckinsale (“Underworld,” “Vacancy”), Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) and Jessica Biel (“The A-Team,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”). Set in 2084 after the majority of Earth has been ravaged by war and has become totally uninhabitable — with the exception of London, now called “The United Federation of Britain” and Australia now referred to as “The Colony.” The United Federation is a gleaming, sleek and technologically advanced futuristic utopia, while The Colony is the workers realm. Dark, damp and dirty buildings are stacked upon each other, like slums. In this new world, the workers travel to the Federation in a gigantic cylindrical elevator down a shaft that literally goes straight through the center of the Earth. Doug Quad (Farrell), a factory worker from the Colony, is depressed and wants more for himself and his wife (Beckinsale) and is plagued by dreams of him and another woman fleeing — for their lives — from the Federation. Enter “Rekall.” An establishment that will provide any memory desired. The only catch: you can’t have actually done the implanted memory or your brain will be fried.
Doug signs up and decides he wants the memory of a secret double agent. As the memories begin to be implanted, something goes wrong. The man administering the rekall (Harold from “Harold and Kumar” aka John Cho) exclaims that Doug really is a spy and tells them to shut it off before “it takes.” At this moment, a team of Federation troops busts in and shoots everyone dead — except Doug who single handedly kills or incapacitates them all only to escape, back to his apartment and wife. As he explains the situation to his wife she attempts to strangle him and reveals that she is a double agent working for the Federation, and he is, in fact, someone important to the resistance which is trying to keep the Colony free and stop an impending secret invasion masterminded by the Chancellor (Bryan Cranston) of the Federation. Doug fights off his pseudo wife and thus begins the chase that pretty much takes up the rest of the movie.
The film is entertaining and a fun ride, but it plays with a venire of intellect that really isn’t there. The acting and script — while nothing to write home about — are solid enough. The issues come from the movie giving the audience no real down time, once it starts there’s just too much. They overload the scenes with crazy effects sequences, explosions and a convoluted system of future elevators that almost crush someone. But they don’t leave any room to build tension or character. So when it comes down to it you don’t really care if they get crushed or not. Along the way, Jessica Biel is thrown in as the woman from Doug’s dreams/memories and turns out to be his love interest though even that isn’t touched on — with the exception of a couple of lines and two overly dramatic kisses.
However, one could still see it as a good popcorn flick. But they really fall apart with what should be the real question of the film: Is he or isn’t he? From the first scene of the film they build the blueprint that Doug is in fact a spy and his life, as a factory worker, was completely fabricated. There’s never a moment where the audience wonders if maybe everything they’re seeing is because of the Rekall, which is what made the source material, Phillip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” so intriguing. They add a couple of poorly delivered lines attempting to misdirect the audience but it doesn’t work. All that along with terribly under using Cranston I’d have to go with the mind fuck that is Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 version. It may not have made a lot of sense, but it’s got more excitement and intrigue than this fairly flat remake.