Total Recall (1990) dir. Paul Verhoeven


I wish I could express my love for Total Recall more than this “short for its own good” write up will allow, but I’m going to try my best. Loosely based on the Philip K. Dicks short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” director Paul Verhoeven’s philosophical masterpiece Total Recall tells the story of Douglas Quaid (played by action hero, star body builder, and general badass Arnold Schwarzenegger) who starts to have various dreams about Mars. Disoriented by these dreams, Quaid decides to have a mind-implemented vacation to Mars through Rekall, a company that implants vacations into your memories. The process, though, wakes up deep suppressed memories of Quaid being a secret agent on Mars. As a result, Quaid decides to take an actual trip to Mars and find the answers of how this has happened to him. From there on, Total Recall becomes the best the science fiction genre can offer. From the over the top and insanely fun action, to the deep overall satirical feel to the whole situation, literally everything about this film is perfect.

Coming off of the insanely good RoboCop, over the top political film satirist Paul Verhoeven constructed his masterfully done take on the science fiction/space sub genre. The idea of implemented memories, the Governor’s (Ronny Cox) constant struggle to fend off a bunch of rebels to achieve his prized Mars artifact, the mutants on Mars – all products of the satire brought to you by Verhoeven. I wouldn’t say that the political portions of Total Recall are on the same level as RoboCop, but instead feel like a tamed back, more narrow look into the culture of the time. Look past the satire, and you’ll find the action-packed core of this film – albeit intensely action-packed. Just like RoboCop, the action is quick, brutal, and over the top in some instances. That doesn’t mean this is a toned back Arnold. If you just love seeing Arnold do what he does, then this film is 100% for you.

If you even slightly respect the science fiction genre, letting Total Recall go unwatched is a crime. It has everything that makes for a good time: first kicking you in the gut with the brutal violence, then leaving you to ponder the film’s more philosophical implications, this genre bending masterpiece can’t go unseen. Celebrating Philip K. Dick’s short stories, the MFA’s free showing on October 15th should fix that if you haven’t seen it already.

Total Recall
dir. Paul Verhoeven
113 min

Screens Saturday, 10/15, 1:00 AM @ MFA Boston – free!

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