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Great action, great suspense, great cultural satire, and a great mind-bender
BrandtSponseller21 March 2005
Set during an unspecified future era, Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a construction worker who longs for a trip to Mars. His wife, Lori (Sharon Stone) isn't so keen on it--she'd prefer a trip to Saturn, or a space cruise. Riding on the subway one day, Quaid notices a television advertisement for a company named Rekall, which specializes in memory implants of vacations. Quaid checks into it as an alternate means of having a "Mars vacation". While at Rekall, he chooses an alternate personality upgrade of a secret agent. However, while undergoing the procedure, something goes wrong. He learns that his Quaid identity was a memory implant and he really _is_ a secret agent. Now that he has his real memory back, he's on the run and he escapes to Mars. But why is everyone after him?

Total Recall, based on "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale", a short story from 1974 by Philip K. Dick (and novelized in conjunction with the film production by Piers Anthony), had a laborious history getting to the silver screen. Tens of drafts were written. Production companies were attached then went out of business. Many directors and stars were attached who either changed their minds or who were dropped. Luckily, Arnold Schwarzenegger talked Carolco into picking up the project for him, with Paul Verhoeven--who'd already proved his mettle on the similarly toned RoboCop (1987)--on board as director, because this is an excellent film.

While Total Recall certainly has influences, including "The Martian Chronicles" (1980), Dune (1984) and the first major film based on a Philip K. Dick work, Blade Runner (1982), it's more notable for the films that it has influenced in subsequent years, including The Fifth Element (1997) and many of the "rubber reality" films such as Abre los ojos (1997)/Vanilla Sky (2001) and The Thirteenth Floor (1999). It's also yet another film on the very long list that have had various elements "adapted" into part of The Matrix (1999)--most explicitly here, the "bug" that Quaid has to remove from his body with a high-tech machine and the possibility of "waking up" from a particular reality by taking "the red pill".

Although it's easy to interpret Total Recall in a very straightforward manner, so that the bulk of what we're seeing at any particular moment and the bulk of the dialogue are the literal reality, very convincing arguments can be made that the majority of the film is a depiction of Quaid's memory implant while in the "patient's chair" at Rekall. And those certainly aren't the only two interpretations possible.

What matters more than thinking one has a "right answer", though, is the deeply captivating story that provokes our interpretations and the amount of fun we have getting there. Verhoeven and the scriptwriting team, which included Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, the writing team behind the Alien films (beginning with Alien, 1979), never let us go very long without another plot twist, most of which force a reinterpretation of the material that went before. The twists occur about once per every ten minutes, if not more frequently.

The film is notable for its special effects by Rob Bottin, which were far ahead of their time, and its fantastic production and art design, which manage to make us feel both that we're experiencing a vicarious trip to a "future grunge" Mars and an almost "Doctor Who" (1963)-ish absurdly artificial reality, complete with supersaturated red skies, ala Frank R. Paul's illustrated covers for the Amazing Stories fiction magazine.

Some locations in Mexico were used for the film, including some subway shots on Mars, and actual commercial sign age was incorporated into the film. There's a lot of fun to be had noticing all of the cultural differences and similarities that the future era of the film will bring. Verhoeven delights in subtle glimpses of various symbols and accoutrement's. His view of the future is one full of corruption, commercialism and decadence. He doesn't have much confidence in a "bright new world" as humans spread out to new territory.

Verhoeven is basically extending the way things are now to the future; it's as if he sees our state as indicative of human nature, so that as long as we're humans, people are going to be taking advantage of one another, trying to control one another, engaging in behavior that's a conflict between desires and societal mores, but also helping out each other when the going gets tough. In these respects, Total Recall has culture-satirical similarities to later films such as Starship Troopers (1997), which isn't surprising given that Verhoeven directed both films. It's notable that Total Recall's future is not quite as bleak as Starship Trooper's.

But the film is hardly less violent. Verhoeven's initial cut was given an X by the MPAA for violence. A number of scenes had to have small edits, most of which have thankfully been restored on at least one special edition DVD. The violence here is a lot more small scale and personal than Starship Troopers. In terms of the visceral, Total Recall often rides a gray area somewhere between action and horror. While the action isn't as explosive as many Schwarzenegger films, the suspense never resolves until the end. This is an amazing thrill ride of a film.
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Certainly One Of Arnie's Best Ever Movies
Theo Robertson1 June 2004
I've seen TOTAL RECALL many times over the years and I'm never failed to be impressed with it . Some people dislike it and I feel I must defend the movie

" Confused plot " - Sorry but I managed to understand the complex plot first time I saw the movie and was impressed that Hollywood had merged a high concept plot with a FX laden extravaganza , such a pity this didn't lead to more thoughtful action adventures . If you want to see a confused plot try watching a James Bond movie from the 1980s

" The violence " - Yeah this is a violent movie for sure but I do wish people would educate themselves to the work of directors before they criticize . Paul Verhoeven had previously made FLESH AND BLOOD and ROBOCOP so a futuristic adventure by Verhoeven that was awarded an 18 certificate isn't going to be confused with an episode of the teletubbies

What I liked from Verhoeven's directing is that he's made everything so recognizable , nothing is ridiculously futuristic looking and we see the characters wearing clothes that wouldn't look out of place in the 1980s . Verhoeven also brings little satirical stabs to the proceedings as he did with ROBOCOP and it's a great shame we see less and less of this European director working for Hollywood

Verhoeven even gets a good performance from Big Arnie , okay this body builder was never in danger of winning an Oscar but Arnie doesn't send himself up and nor do his wise cracks like in his other blockbusters but he does make for an affable - Though violent - hero . Michael Ironside gives the most memorable performance which considering he spends most of the movie running around with a gun is no small achievement .

One interesting thing I noticed about TOTAL RECALL after seeing it again last night is that it's unapologetic on being on the side of the rebels who are waging a war against the greedy Mars company . Anyone believe that if it was made today the rebels/terrorists would be the bad guys ?

Anyway this is along with the original TERMINATOR the best movie starring Arnie though most of the credit for this movie belongs to the screenwriters and director and it's a great pity Hollywood is reluctant to mix a high concept SF plot with a crowd pleasing action adventure
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The Trilogy Needs Total Recall
gavin694231 May 2006
When a man (Arnold Schwarzenegger) goes for virtual vacation memories of the planet Mars, an unexpected and harrowing series of events forces him to go to the planet for real, or does he?

One could consider "Total Recall" part of a Philip K. Dick trilogy: Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report. With A Scanner Darkly and Paycheck (among others) creating an extended trilogy (you know, like Douglas Adams did). Total Recall is easily worthy of standing beside Blade Runner. And even as a stand-alone sci-fi film, it ranks as one of the better ones of the 1990s, if not all time.

One of the great things about Total Recall is the ambiguous nature of the story. Is it a dream? A brain embolism? Reality? Any of these has evidence to support it and also to contradict it. And this is a strength for the movie.

There is a certain absurdity with the special effects -- eyes bulging and whatnot when the people lose oxygen. In real life you would simply die in space, not explode. But at the same time this was somewhat amusing and a bit comical so it can be overlooked. Besides, coming from Rob Bottin ("The Thing"), the focus should be on the strengths of the makeup and effects and not the possible shortfalls.

The casting was great. Arnold was a great choice, and no one else could be Quaid. Kurt Russell, Stallone, Swayze... these guys are great but not right for this part. And Sharon Stone was looking her best for this movie, and since her role seemed to be the sexpot wife who does little more than exercise and seduce her husband, that is a big endorsement.

Clearly the best character was Benny the Cab Driver, played by Mel Johnson, Jr in his only notable role. He stole the scenes he was in with great comic timing and an interesting back-story. I was quite interested by how he went from being what could have been a minor background role to a primary figure in the overall plot. Exquisite.

I guess I simply must recommend you see this movie. If you have not seen Blade Runner, watch that first. If you have not seen Minority Report, watch this first. But either way, be sure that you put this movie somewhere high on your to-do list.
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Excellent Even When You Watch It For More Than Ten Times
claudio_carvalho10 October 2006
The worker Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) dreams on Mars for many consecutive nights. He invites his wife Lori (Sharon Stone) to spend vacation on Mars, but she does not agree, since the planet ruled by the tyrant Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox), who sells oxygen for the population, is facing resistance movement and terrorist acts leaded by the mutant Kuato. Douglas decides to go to the Rekall Company to implant virtual vacation memories of Mars for his own satisfaction, using a special program with the identity of a secret agent. While in the process, something goes wrong and Douglas becomes aggressive, and the process is interrupted. While returning home, the life of Douglas turns upside down, and he travels to the red planet trying to disclose who he is.

Today I have watched "Total Recall" at least for the tenth time, now on DVD. Again, I found it an excellent sci-fi film with non-stop action. The story has many twists, and the screenplay has no flaws, being very attractive. This was the first movie that the beauty of the unknown Sharon Stone (in 1990) called my attention. Arnold Schwarzenegger is great performing a dubious hero, and Michael Ironside is the perfect villain. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "O Vingador do Futuro" ("The Avenger of the Future")
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Action sci-fi at it's best..
SuperVHS9 December 1998
Total Recall is without doubt Arnold Schwarzenegger's best movie since The Terminator. Arnold fits perfectly in the role of Doug Quaid (definitely his best acting in a movie to date) the confused construction worker and Ronny Cox provides his usual evil plotting arch bad-guy. The impressive visual effects are worth the movie's $100million price tag, and Paul Verhoeven proved that, as with Robocop and Starship Troopers, sci-fi is where he does his best work.

What does spoil films like these, however, are people who cannot grasp the concept of Science FICTION, and refuse to suspend their belief for 2 hours(a vital part of enjoying these movies). Movies like this don't work without the overplayed violence, cheesy one-liners and stunning effects. Take away any of these elements and you no longer have a sci-fi action movie.

Chill out, check out and enjoy...
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one of the most enjoyable of the Arnold action vehicles
Quinoa19846 June 2006
Total Recall has little, if any,by way of passing itself as being 'art'. It is, but more in the sense of it being pop-art, of the director Paul Verhoven paying tribute in visuals to the story by Phillip K. Dick. And it's also one of the more exciting and quotable of those shameless examples of how to do an action film. In this case, however, because it is a P.K. Dick-based story there are some good social bits made in the process. If it isn't as astute or consistent as Blade Runner or Minority Report, it's probably more due to it having to be a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger than it being a full-on thought-provoking work of science fiction on film. But this does rank up high with the other works of the star, as he is in a complex situation in the film- his mind is scrambled, at first, and everything he thought was right as dickens is not. So he's told by 'himself' on a screen he happened to save for himself that he has to get to mars to find out the truth.

There is plenty of good action sequences, but it is more about Verhoven's knack at getting this popularized view of Mars just a little subverted, a little stranger. Some of my favorite scenes involved Scwarzenegger's mishaps and turns of fate as the story and his character took turns. For example, in the scene when Arnold's character wants to get his memory wiped off to Mars and then he flips out in the chair, this is a very entertaining scene in being very ridiculous (try to listen to what he says, or don't as its near unintelligible) as well as following a darker trek in the story. In fact, much of the film works on the strengths of both director and star by having it not too over the top to have some belief in what is going on, but that expectations aren't limited to what might happen as Arnold's character in on Mars uncovering the conspiracy around his messed-up memory.

Featuring a sultry Sharon Stone in a great supporting role (another memorable scene comes with her demise, as usual quotable to the bone), as well as a memorable climax involving the arid Mars air and a certain outrageous reaction to it, I recommend Total Recall for genre fans and even those who might be wary of it being a 'Hollywood' take on Dick. It's not great, and per usual PKD fans might scoff at the faithfulness to the source, but it's better than some of the lesser adaptations of the author. Just go in for a good time and it stands up over time (err, 16 years).
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One of Arnie's best – an action movie with a very good core plot
bob the moo17 July 2002
In 2020, Douglas feels he needs a break from the day to day life and goes to Total Recall – where memories are planted in your head to make you think you are someone else for a while – a holiday in your head if you will. However before he can be injected he begins to have flashbacks and suddenly finds that people are trying to kill him and that somehow he must get to Mars to uncover the reasons. However what is truth and what is fake and is the whole thing really happening or not?

Based on a Phillip K. Dick story this was always going to be intelligent – however it's surprising that Verhoeven manages to keep that core well. The plot allows his excessive violence but is also a great story that more than holds the interest with twists and turns and neither Douglas or us fully knowing what's going on. The action is great – even 10 or so years on, and the tension just stays solid throughout.

Schwarzenegger does his usual invincible muscles stuff and looks happy blasting crowds, but he is also OK in other areas too. Tictin is good but never repeated this success for herself. The baddies (or maybe not?) are the best roles – solid baddies like Ironside and Cox are just as good as they were in other similar roles and Sharon Stone is good as Douglas' wife.

Overall this continues Verhoeven's trend of making ultra-violence and clever plots and satire work well together (Robocop, Starship Troopers and this) as opposed to his trend of making trash! Everything about this film works well – whether it be the action or the acting or the plot – a surprisingly nice package for a violent action movie!
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See you at the party, Richter!
davydteather6 November 2011
Total Recall is a fast paced sci-fi action movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat all the way from beginning to end. For a movie released in the early 1990's, it has some very spectacular make-up effects, visual effects and special effects. This movie is sort of similar to Paul Verhoeven's other films. It is violent, bloody, it has some sexuality/nudity and some profanity. This movie has dark humour. Paul Verhoeven really knows how to use visual and special effects and dark humour whenever he is shooting a scene in his movies. This is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's best films, along with Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Predator. Total Recall is also one Verhoeven's best movies to date. This movie is worth a watch.
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One of the best movies I've seen.
ticleingpluexsuper25 December 2016
The action of this movie is colossal, always moving and nobody gets bored. Arnold is excellent as Douglas, a guy who works hard and has a beautiful blonde to go to bed. Sharon Stone is as good as Lori and Rachel Ticotin as Melina. I like both blondes and redheads, so I do not have to complain.

Villains are evil enough and they are killed in the end. Not like these stupid marvel movies, in which no villain dies, simply for we have pity of them. A good bad guy has to be hated.

Special effects are always great and the humor is correct, and is not forced, not like these stupid marvel movies. I love every minute of this movie. Amazing.
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Stunning Sci-Fi movie with an entertaining intrigue full of thrills , twists and turns
ma-cortes16 December 2012
The year is 2084 , it is the future , technology has flourished, and humans have successfully colonized on the planet Mars . A factory worker (Arnold Schwarzenegger though Christopher Reeve was offered, but turned down ,Jeff Bridges, Matthew Broderick and Richard Dreyfuss were each considered and role posteriorly interpreted by Colin Farrell in recent remake) happily married to Lori (Sharon Stone , subsequently acted by Kate Beckinsale in remake directed by his husband Len Wiseman) , begins to suspect that he is a spy after visiting Rekall - a company that provides its clients with implanted fake memories of a life they would like to have led - goes wrong and he finds himself on the run . When Douglas Quaid goes for virtual vacation memories of the planet Mars, an unexpected and harrowing series of events forces him to go to the planet for real, or does he? . They stole his mind, now he wants it back . Quaid finds himself thrust into the midst of a global conspiracy to find it out , as he goes to Mars where is helped by Melina (Rachel Ticotin , ulteriorly played by Jessica Biel) .

This exciting picture is based on a short story titled "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick that was inspiration to screen story by Ronald Shusett and Dan O'Bannon , but director Verhooven replaced the satirical humor with extreme violence , in the original screenplay, dark humor was much more prevalent. The flick packs thrills , chills , plot twists and noisy action from start to finish . It's a roller-coaster ride until the massive final of the picture . It also displays lots of strong scenes , blood , gore and violence , the original cut of the movie was given an X-rating by the MPAA for excessive violence , some was trimmed and different camera angles were used in some of the more over the top scenes and the movie was then re-rated R . Acceptable acting by Schwarzenegger , he said that he felt this helped the story even more, giving a much stronger contrast to it by turning a character who is otherwise powerful physically into a character that becomes vulnerable after having his mind stolen . Good support cast such as Ronny Cox as Vilos Cohaagen , Michael Ironside as Richter , Marshall Bell as George/Kuato and Mel Johnson Jr. as Benny . Impressive production design , the subway scenes were filmed in the Mexico City subway system , the miniatures used for shots showing Martian geography were based on Martian photographs . Excellent special effects , it was one of the last major Hollywood blockbusters to make large-scale use of miniature effects as opposed to CGI, and at the same time, it was also one of the first major Hollywood blockbusters to use CGI , mainly for the scenes involving the X-Ray scanner , and have it look "photo-real". Paul Verhoeven and special effects supervisor Rob Bottin had had constant disagreements during the making of RoboCop, so it seemed unlikely that the two men would ever cooperate again. However, when they saw how good Robocop had turned out, they changed their minds, and Verhoeven gave Bottin full freedom to make his own Martian creature designs . Furthermore , rousing and thrilling musical score by the great composer Jerry Goldsmith , today become a classic soundtrack. However he had said that he had received some criticism about the movie's score that "the movie had no theme", to which he strongly disagreed, stating that the movie did in fact have a theme, but it wasn't the kind of theme that "people left the theaters whistling after". The motion picture was compellingly directed by Verhoeven , though seven filmmakers were considered for and even hired to direct the movie, including Richard Rush, Bruce Beresford , Lewis Teague was also under consideration to direct around this time and David Cronenberg who had even written a few drafts of the script before Paul took over the project.
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Classic Verhoeven
Agent1021 June 2002
One of the best mind trips ever, I could only wish this movies was made ten years later. Even for 1990, this film had some of the most imaginative make-up I've ever seen in a movie. While it had Paul Verhoeven's classic shallowness, the film really touched new ground not only with science fiction but also with special effects. Talk a good few years for a director, he not only changed sci-fi with Robocop, he did it again with Total Recall. Verhoeven will never, ever win an Oscar for best director, but his movies will at least be entertaining in most respects.
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Verhoeven bonkers adaptation of a P. K. Dick story.
Spikeopath20 April 2008
Doug Quaid keeps getting recurring dreams about a visit to Mars. In spite of his friends warnings, he decides to have a memory implanted Mars holiday. But during the implantation he remembers being a secret agent who is fighting evil Mars boss Vilos Cohaagen. Things are about to go very intergalactic bonkers indeed.

Total Recall finds director Paul Verhoeven on particularly OTT form, with the often maligned director cranking up the action and violence to the max. So then, who better to play out the carnage than the big Austrian oak himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger? It was actually Schwarzenegger who brought Verhoeven into the picture. The idea for the film had been kicking around for years, a number of director's came and went, David Cronenberg famously worked on a screenplay for a year only to have it jettisoned for being too close to the P. K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale". The makers wanted a high energy sci-fi blockbuster, a star vehicle for Schwarzenegger, and Verhoeven was only too happy to oblige.

Total Recall is a fascinating concept as we find ourselves wondering what in fact is reality? Quaid himself is never quite sure as the film takes a delicious twist at the midpoint to further compound the confusion, but in true Verhoeven style, it all comes crashing together in a giant ball of bangs, crashes and explosions. It should be noted that the film is far removed from the cerebral essence of Dick's story, and really when one saw that Schwarzenegger was to star in a Verhoeven directed adaptation, one really should be prepared for the high octane brain dumb down that Total Recall is. Something which was beyond some highbrow critics who are still baffled by the gargantuan financial success of the film (it made over $260 million worldwide).

Fleshing out the cast are a stoic reliable bunch. Rachael Ticotin, Ronny Cox, Sharon Stone & Michael Ironside deliver the expected tongue in cheek professionalism. While the effects prove to be a mixture of the poor and the decent - though it's nice to see the often lost art of model work being of a pretty high standard. All of which leaves me personally with a film that I find to be a hugely enjoyable piece of uber violent popcorn fodder. 8/10
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Awesome P.K. Dick adaptation
stormhawk201914 May 2017
Loosely inspired by one of Philip K. Dick's stories, this is a superb sci-fi action thriller set in a dystopic 2084 about a construction worker named Quaid who decides to go on a 'vacation' by having memories of a secret agent fantasy implanted into his brain, only for things to go horribly awry...or maybe not. Despite a few silly and cheesy moments, this is a wonderful, if violent action thriller that is both entertaining, and rather thought provoking. It really toys with that oft-used concept of blurring the line between what's real and what isn't, and this is one of the few films that actually does it quite well, with enough evidence to support multiple theories, with the true ending of the film dependent upon each viewer's own opinion. Like many of Verhoeven's American films, it's got a lot of violence, but provides a lot of thought provoking ideas and material, often satirical, as well. It's all presented with some groundbreaking special effects (almost all of them done practically or in camera as opposed to CGI), a terrific score by Jerry Goldsmith, and some decent, if sometimes silly, but still fun performances. And let's not forget about the most memorable thing this film has to offer: a three-breasted mutant prostitute! Definitely give this one a watch. It's not flawless, but it is remarkably strong, and easily one of both Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger's best films.
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A Darn Good Futuristic Thriller...Much Better Than "Minority Report"...
MovieAddict201619 February 2003
Total Recall

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in an adaptation of Philip K. Dick's short story 'We'll Remember It For You Wholesale' in the Hollywood makeover 'Total Recall.' And a darn good makeover it is.

Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid, who is having a serious identity crisis. He lives in the future. In the future, people have the ability to live on Mars. Well, guess who wants to go to Mars? Unfortunately, Douglas' wife (Sharon Stone) is not too happy about that idea, and wants to stay on Earth. So, what's a guy to do if his wife doesn't want to move? Get a memory implant, of course! Using the latest technology, memories can be implanted in your brain in a matter of moments. You choose the destination, identity (spy, civilian, etc.) and Total Rekall (yes, Total Rekall) will install it for you.

Warned by his friends not to get the implant, Quaid does so anyway. But something goes terribly wrong. Soon, his wife, friends and co-workers are all trying to kill him.but why? The answer may kill him.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is perfect for the role of Quaid. People can argue all they want about how bad an actor he is, but you can't say that after seeing this movie. He pulls the film's acting and stunts off with ease, all the while spitting out his catchy one-liners ('Consider this a divorce!').

Sharon Stone is probably at her best here, seeing that her career went mainly down-the-drain from here on (okay, she won - or was nominated - for an Oscar for 'Casino.' This movie made her).

Paul Verhoven directs this film, and there are no arguments that this is his finest work - by far. He was the director who went on to make such 'critically acclaimed' (*guffaw*) films such as 'Showgirls' and 'Hollow Man.' His only other film that was remotely good was 'Basic Instinct,' but this is still ten times better (Sharon Stone would not have starred in that film if not for 'Total Recall' - Verhoven said so himself.).

The special effects in this movie are excellent; supposedly, they spent millions and millions on the fake Mars sets, and I bet they're glad it paid off.

I recently bought the 'Total Recall' Limited Edition DVD with a newly remastered digital makeover, Dolby Digital 5.1, behind-the-scenes documentary(s), a commentary by Verhoven and Schwarzenegger, and much, much more. If you can find one now (it was limited edition so it might be off the market, now) I would recommend picking a copy up. It was fourteen dollars, and it definitely packed a punch for that much (no, I'm not a salesman!)

'Total Recall' stands as Arnold's most 'thought-provoking' film and best conspiracy-type thriller. In fact, it is one of the best sci-fi/futuristic thrillers ever.

Many people do not realize that 'Minority Report' with Tom Cruise is actually a sequel to this film, and Verhoven and Schwarzenegger had talked about making it for a long time, but now, it looks like the deal is off. There is still a sequel in talks, however, not based on a story by Dick. Supposedly, the company (Miramax, was it?) wants Arnold, Stone and Verhoven back. Oh well. I, for one, am looking forward to it (though I don't understand how Stone is coming back.prequel?)

Anyway, I'm getting off the subject. 'Total Recall' is a good movie, and a darn good one at that. It provides everything we want - and more - in a movie.

4.5/5 stars - maybe I'm overrating it. However, I feel it deserves that many stars.
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Arnie has an adventure on Mars
Tweekums22 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
In the year 2084 protagonist Douglas Quaid is apparently an ordinary construction worker but he has recurring dreams about events on Mars involving a woman who is not his wife. He has no idea why he has the dreams; he has never stepped foot on Mars and has not met the woman… or so he thinks. One day he decides to visit 'Rekall'; a company that implants the memories of a perfect holiday. Naturally he selects a holiday on Mars during which he will have a fantasy adventure as a secret agent. As the procedure starts something goes wrong and he starts ranting about having really been to Mars and how his life is in danger. He flees and is chased by people determined to kill him. He gets home and learns that his wife isn't the person he thought she was… apparently his whole life up to this point is a false memory. Managing to evade his captors he heads to Mars to discover the truth. Here he meets the woman from his dreams, gets involved in a rebellion against the tyrannical authorities and learns of a plot to hide the discovery of alien technology… but is it real or has something gone horribly wrong at Rekall?

This sci-fi classic is a lot of fun. As one would expect from a film that is an adaption of a story from the pen of Philip K. Dick there are plenty of twists and questions about the identity of our protagonist. Equally expected, given that it is directed by Paul Verhoeven, is a fair amount of bloody violence… when I first saw it in the cinema I thought it was possibly the most violent film I'd seen! The story could easily have become confusing as the viewer wonders whether what is real but thankfully it manages to avoid confusion; what we are shown always appears to be real even if we later learn that not everybody is quite who they appear to be; an example of this is Quaid's 'wife'; at first it appears they have been happily married for years than it emerges she met him six months ago. The film looks great with impressive special effects and locations that have a futuristic feel. The cast is impressive; Arnold Schwarzenegger is in great form as Quaid and Rachel Ticotin is solid as his 'dream girl' Melina. A film like this needs good bad guys; Michael Ironside is great as Richter, the man hunting Quaid and Sharon Stone is suitably ambiguous as Quaid's 'wife'. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to anybody who enjoys solid action and a good story… if you are a fan of Arnie it is a must see.
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"Total Recall" - 10/10
dee.reid13 December 2003
I have to make a confession that I have a serious lack of knowledge concerning the workings of revered science fiction author, Philip K. Dick. However, I do know that three of his workings have been turned into some of the greatest science fiction action set-pieces of the last 21 years. The first was Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner," which was released in 1982 and is the obvious best Philip K. Dick adaptation ever. The most recent was last year's "Minority Report," which starred Tom Cruise and was directed by Steven Spielberg. Somewhere in between there, was Arnold Schwarzenegger's action epic, "Total Recall," which was released in 1990 and was directed by Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven (RoboCop, Starship Troopers).

"Recall" (adapted from Dick's short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale") starred Schwarzenegger in the role of Douglas Quaid, a construction worker who goes to a place that sells you fake memories and Quaid opts for an implant of the planet Mars. However, a mishap occurs during the implantation and it is discovered that Quaid is actually a secret agent. Quaid's journey then concerns him having to leave Earth and returning to Mars to find his true identity.

If "Total Recall" is the least successful of the "Big Three" ("Recall," "Minority Report," "Blade Runner"), then it is at least the most inventive. The movie has such a wondrous vision of future Earth and a production design that no one can beat. Paul Verhoeven injects his usual gratuitous bloodshed here (a number of scenes were edited to remove excessive violence), while also carefully planting little bits of social satire. The Oscar-winning special effects are another one of the great highlights of this film, too. Though dated, they still look pretty convincing, even today 13 years later after this films release.
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Arnold Schwarzenegger's most thoughtful movie.
c_alton12 November 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Total Recall works for most of it's length as a convoluted Hitchcockian science fiction thriller. It's only at the denouement that things become...despite an indulgence in sadism that would offend delicate sensibilities...cartoonish and unrealistic (e.g., exposure to the Martian environment would in truth be a swift race between suffocation and freezing to death). While as a whole the film has flaws--things that tend to ruin the suspension of disbelief--that aren't easy to overlook, there are a number of individual scenes that I particularly cherish, rewarding repeat viewings. There is, for instance, Doug (Schwarzenegger) Quaid's visit to Rekall, Inc., and the salesman's pitch that slyly reveals the entire plot of the movie beforehand. Another is the encounter in the Martian hotel room where the possibility Doug is unwittingly undergoing a dream--in the form of synthesized memories--is brought up, and another set of predictions particularly covering the third act is expounded. Lastly, the scene in which the villainous mastermind (Ronny Cox) reveals his stunning machinations qualifies as a mindbender. One more note: it's appears that almost every significant character in the film is not who he seems to be at first glance. Some other items in the movie's favor is the musical soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith and spectacular special effects. Again, Total Recall is not greater than the sum of its parts, has patent absurdities that insult intelligence, and bloody violence. Still, it remains Arnold Schwarzenegger's strongest...and most
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Extreme unbelievability!
GOWBTW8 June 2007
Sci-fi has been taken to the max, in more ways than others. In "Total Recall", reality and fantasy is very hard to tell. The cast in the movie are perfect: Arnold Swartzenegger, Sharon Stone, Rachel Ticotin, Michael Ironside, and others to name make the movie rock! Living on the planet Mars would be good. Unfortunately, the gases are highly toxic. I liked everything this movie has given. It was full of surprises. The mutants for instance are very unique, some were grotesque. The woman who flashed her three breasts would make any normal man want to be a mutant. That mutant dwarf was very tough. And I like the fight scene between Stone's character and Ticotin's. I liked the part when Arnie's character separated himself from his dangerous "wife", saying, "Consider this a divorce!" The art of sci-fi has really put me in this movie very much. Doing your nails without all the mess, getting to know the truth about things is a must for some people. Plenty of action, full of thrills, this movie is straight off the edge of your seat fun! An Arnie classic. 5 stars!
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action at its very best
willsgb17 August 2003
Arnold really excels in this sci-fi thriller. director Paul Verhoeven spent $100 million on this i believe, but it was worth it. the film did ok in the box office i think, and has been praised thoroughly since.

Doug Quaid goes to a memory journey type place, where he is able to go on a holiday in his mind, virtual reality. anyway events conspire to reveal to him that the life he is living and believes is true, and his memories, are nothing more then a cover. He decides to go and find out why, and what the truth is and regain his memories. His search takes him to Mars!

the special effects make the world seem plastic but are also very good, and mars is great. the music is very apt for this film. It even adds to the fun. the one liners are great, the fighting scenes are fast paced and enjoyable, and the plot is interesting and keeps you guessing. the acting is good and the whole film is a classic. Verhoevens plastic world reappeared in Starship troopers, but that film, this and Robocop are three of the best action movies of all time. and this film really packs a punch! suspend your belief for 2 hours and enjoy!
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A true classic
luket-1028620 June 2017
This is sci-fi at it's finest. Great story, great acting and stunning visuals, especially for the time it was made. Arnold Schwarzenegger is brilliant in this movie, as are all the supporting actors. Awesome action, and has funny one-liners, this movie has it all. If you are a fan of sci-fi movies I highly recommend this cult classic.
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A Satirical Technological Commentary, While Still Being An Enjoyable Sci-Fi Romp
Det_McNulty31 October 2007
Danish director, Paul Verhoeven, released his first American film in 1987; this was RoboCop, an action film which has since become situated in a league of its own. Not only was it a hit in the Western world, but a global box-office bragger and a critically acclaimed triumph. Subsequent to the success, Verhoeven was chosen to direct a film adapted from a novella by Philip K. Dick ("We Can Remember It for you Wholesale") and turned it into the 1990 action classic, Total Recall. Two surprisingly intelligent action films made in succession allowed Verhoeven to become an established film-maker, who was at liberty to take the content of mainstream films distinctly further.

Arnold Schwarzenegger took leading-man once again for Total Recall, just like the majority of films he starred in during the '80s and '90s. As with The Terminator, Predator and even Commando; his artificial and easy-to-mock acting went centre stage once again. Even though Schwarzenegger is far from being named a great actor, he is certainly situated as one of the most likable and satisfying (from a Blockbuster standpoint). His deadened approach is what makes his roles so true their form, and he is nearly always playing characters with seemingly robotic personalities. Growing up watching "Arnie actioners" is something I have always treasured, which is why his films are cherished memories and also the reason for making re-watches such an electrifying event.

Fusing reality with delusion (in what is essentially a case of identity crisis) is the core theme of Total Recall. Recurring -the now too-close-to-home- ideas of technological corruption reluctantly controlling a man's livelihood is hardly a topic which lacks the option of philosophical debate. In fact, for the action/science-fiction genre Verhoeven works wonders in making what seems to be a relatively stable, easy-going mainstream archetype into something which speaks out on politics and technology. Indeed, with the rapid increase and reliability on technology there is no doubt that us consumers will eventually resort to purchasing faulty, radioactive brain implants. Sadly, I am not joking, as I do believe that the foreseeable future of technology's control over our lives is inevitable.

Total Recall worked wonders for special-effects and make-up during the beginning of the '90s. Lifelike mutants and grand set-pieces, including architecture resembling art-deco and prefabricated design drove the film's ambiance. As with most action films the average shot length (ASL) is visibly short, but is acceptable for a film of its kind and works adequately when put in conjunction with the ultra-violent fight scenes. Villains are stereotypical, heroes sprout graciously eccentric one-liners ("Consider it a divorce!") and the array of characters are befuddling, but these are mere reasons why Total Recall is a cinematic product of its time, which still foreshadowed future possibilities.

If you are a person who takes everything far too seriously, then Total Recall is not appropriate viewing. However, if you are prepared to have an open-mind and realise that action films can still be clever (in this case due to a fantastically wrapped screenplay) you are likely to acquire a barrel of rip-roaring violence and furtive intellect. All too regularly is the film misconstrued as a meaningless American blockbuster, something it actually refrains from potentially becoming.
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Arnold plays Dennis Quaid in Dreamrecall
jklein878723 March 2005
Arnold is huge in this film. His poop has muscles. The man just does not frig. Arnold has his mind erased and must find out why everyone is trying to kill him and the key lies on the planet Mars. The special effects are still great, we see Arnold take an ax to a few people, rip off Michael Ironside's iron arms, shoot people, bangs Sharon Stone, eats apple pie, and many other actions such as walking and talking. Paul Verybigchoda directs this sci-fi masterpiece. This could be better than his Robocop. How can you go wrong when you see a woman with three breasts? THREE! Living in Chicago I wish we could have Johnny Cabs. Instead we have Jumbalia Cabs where the cab driver smells like curry and his prices are higher than Christopher Lloyd's character from "Taxi". Sorry Bob!
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An Action Movie That Also Bends The Mind
zkonedog8 March 2017
"Total Recall", at its core, is a straight-up action vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger. At least, that is what it was supposed to be. However, it actually succeeds so much more as a psychological thriller thanks to director Paul Verhoeven and an incredible script.

For a basic plot summary, "Total Recall" follows the very strange set of circumstances surrounding one Douglas Quaid (Schwarzenegger), who one day is living the married life with Lori (Sharon Stone), and the next moment is caught up in an intrigue plot involving a stunning vixen named Melina (Rachel Ticotin) who tells Quaid he is not exactly what (or who) he thinks he is. But is the whole thing a virtual-reality experience?

This movie succeeds because it manages to successfully indulge in two different genres:

-First of all, it is an action/adventure flick on par with Arnie's other works. It is non-stop from the opening scene, rushing forward with special effects (well, special for the time period...!), chase scenes, and tons of gunfire.

-Secondly, though, it is also a psychological mind-bender of the highest order. You really won't know exactly what is going on until the final scene (and even then the result will amaze you).

Overall, then, I was very impressed with this flick that I didn't have very high expectations for. I expected a simple "action romp", but instead was treated to so much more. It can be watched for many reasons: the action, the thinking, the acting (actually pretty good), or the nostalgia. Either way, there will more than likely be something for you.
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why must action movies require a mindcheck at the door?
MrsRainbow1 February 1999
I saw Total Recall while I was in high school and since a friend of mine owns it and was talking about it the other day I thought I'd check it out again. I love Dick's novels and for that reason alone thought this would be worth watching. So sadly wrong. It was evident that the original idea was a good one, but a whole lot of garbage had been tacked on to make this into a Hollywood scifi bomb.

I do not understand why some fans of science fiction and action movies think it necessary to have their intelligence insulted in order for a film to be enjoyable. Action and intelligence, sorry to say, are not mutually exclusive. The plot was by no means as complex as I remember it being, and Mars seemed even more contrived than in my first viewing.

Very simple plot points could have been corrected to make Total Recall a bit more respectable. The most glaring: why is that the vague "aliens" who built the reactor made the indentation in the panel which starts it up in the shape of a human hand? Puhleaze.
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Total Wreck-All
Maciste_Brother10 June 2007
When TOTAL RECALL was released back in 1990, it signaled the end of an era: the end of intelligent science fiction films made in Hollywood. No more ANDROMEDA STRAIN, no more BLADE RUNNER, no more DUNE. The science fiction genre was dumbed down considerably by this Paul "subtle as a sledgehammer" Verhoeven directed project based on a story by Philip K Dick. It's well reported how the script was changed considerably to suit Ah-nuld's limitations as an actor. What a good actor could have done with the original story's intriguing plot points were quickly re-written once Ah-nuld was attached to the project. I read the article in CINEFANTASTIQUE about the tumultuous life of the screenplay and the many changes they made to the storyline. The article was disheartening. Plot points and fascinating ideas found in the original screenplay were eliminated and replaced by gore, gore, gore and stupid one liners, and a very mean-spirited tone. The repetitious use of gratuitous violence was exploited brilliantly by Verhoeven to prompt the story with some "life" because he was aware Ah-nuld could not act. In fact, almost every actor in TOTAL RECALL cannot act. I've never seen such a collection of bad acting from so many actors in a single film, with Rachel Ticotin winning the award for worst pseudo-action female star ever.

Things are made worse by the complete lack of vision from the director: the papier-mâché look of the sets and the Mars environment, with the uber cheesy mutants living there made the film look like a $80 million TROMA film. But the thing that killed this film was the complete lack of logic which clashed with the science fiction aspects of the story: because this is an action film, made for people who believe Ah-nuld can kill 100 bad guys with one bullet, the action goes on as if everything took place on earth, in your average city. Everyone starts shooting all over the enclosed Mars environment with ordinary guns and bullets. The bad guys shoot bullets into (breakable) windows and there goes the carefully controlled environment. Brilliant work, guys. You're jeopardizing your own life. This movie is so dumb, it's unbelievable. Verhoeven pandered to the lowest common denominator just to please action film fans and, IMO, he permanently lost his "author" tag with the ugly TOTAL WRECK-ALL.

The only good thing in this film is Jerry Goldsmith's score. It's powerful and evocative. I just wish this excellent score was attached to a good movie.
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