'Total Recall:' Few Souvenirs From This Mind Trip

MANILA, Philippines--Memory is an important part of our identity. But does it define who we are?

This is the all-important, pervading question in the action-thriller film "Total Recall," directed by Len Wiseman ("Underworld" series). A retelling of the 1990 film of the same title, which was based from the 1966 short story penned by Phillip K. Dick, "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale," the 2012 version boasts of sharp, detailed imaginings of the Earth at the end of the 21st Century, with only two livable territories left: the United Federation of Britain and The Colony-with political strife prevailing between the two.

There are refrigerators with touch screen front display (which can be customized with notes and photos), "The Fall," or a "gravity elevator" used to transport people from one end of the world to the other and futuristic cityscapes. They also have, get this, a cellphone implanted inside your palm-innovative, but quite gross if you think about it.

What may well be the most interesting about future Earth in "Total Recall" is the existence of a company called Rekall, which can inject you with real memories of your deepest fantasies. It's quite reminiscent of "Inception," but seems quicker and more mechanical. It isn't any wonder that lead character Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), a factory worker, tries to sign up for the said mind-trip out of the many frustrations in his life. When the process suddenly goes out of hand, Quaid soon learns that he's not who he thinks he is. As it turns out, he's a wanted man, but for reasons that border more on the righteous than otherwise.

The prevailing atmosphere of uneasiness and discontent established early on in the film gives the impression that Quaid would forever chase answers to all his overwhelming questions. It has plenty of moments seemingly eliciting wonder if the characters are in the real or the imagined world. However the adrenaline rush only stays on the surface and fails to infiltrate the senses.

A plus point for "Total Recall," nevertheless, is how it manages to take the moviegoers into the story as it happens, often inciting sympathy for Quaid's confusion about his real identity. Farrell, on his part, injects a superhero of sorts into his character's humanity. He's also able to imbibe multiple emotions simultaneously; for instance, confusion, desperation, the need to protect as well as to survive. His leading ladies prove credible enough as well: Kate Beckinsale as Quaid's supposed wife-turned-hitman who has a twisted sense of what's right; and Jessica Biel as his true love who led him to the right direction.

Bryan Cranston as villain Chancellor Cohaagen, however, is not as ruthless in his portrayal as we would've imagined. Disappointing, considering that his character aims for world domination at all costs.

Action-packed scenes notwithstanding, "Total Recall" unfortunately lacks the powerful punch that would make it worth remembering.

Original Film and Columbia Pictures' "Total Recall" is now showing in Digital IMAX (SM North EDSA), 2D, and regular theaters.

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