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Review Total Recall (1990): A Paul Verhoeven / Arnold Schwarzenegger classic!

genre: science fiction, action, adventure

Total Recall was and is one of the best films to have been made ever. It definitely is a product of it's time. They simply don't make films like this any more. The remake made in 2012 makes that absolutely clear. Sure visually it might look more sci fi it actually lacks the elements to make it a genuine sci fi flick. There are two reasons for this. First, Arnold Schwarzenegger and director Paul Verhoeven.

Even if some naysayers will claim there is no genius to Paul Verhoeven and anybody could have made the film great by just following the book, simply don't understand what it takes to translate something written to the big screen. Apart from the story, you also have to be able to translate the world everything occurs in. You have to make characters compelling even in the non-speaking scenes. Verhoeven is a master of putting his own stamp on it. First, the way he has used violence. It's brutal and unforgiving. Perhaps not that bloody and gory but there is enough there to have an impact. That is what makes the action sequences work. Next to stylized and well choreographed action and stunt work you actually can see the consequences of those sequences. That is what a lot of current films seem to miss. Besides it's a lot of fun. Remember how films could be fun?

Then there is the humour. If you are familiar with Verhoeven's work then there is going to be a lot of satire in his films to mock certain political ideas, corporatism, fascism, you name it if he has a beef about something, he will put it in his films. It's undeniably one of the main elements that have made his works last for so long since the satire is still very much relevant. Quaid played by Schwarzenegger works in construction. If I am not mistaken, the character in the book worked in the office and dreamt about going to Mars all the time. Anyone who has worked in an office and knows how tedious and destructive office work can get will instantly relate to that desire. However Schwarzenegger as an office employee wouldn't work. So it made sense for him to be in construction. Verhoeven realized this and made sure his actions were more fitting to his physique and profession. I also liked how Quaid still aches for more and better. Let's face it, how many of you would be complaining when the person they wake up to is Sharon Stone. I mean, come on. But that is the point. Deep down, no matter how good life seems, you just know you are missing something and you want to do whatever you can to achieve that part that is missing. I don't know how important this notion is in the book since I am aware the planted memories are the focus but it's a very universal theme that is very relatable. It's easier to put yourself in the shoes of Quaid even if he is built like the Hulk.

The ambiguity of the dream / reality concept. You aren't downright told what has occurred on the screen, but there are enough elements to make you think that the whole adventure hasn't really happened. The film moves in such a fast pace that you rarely get the chance to think about the politics and the world. Is it a future you want to live in? 

So yes, this definitely is a title you should own if you are a cinephile like me!

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