|Total Recall is a 2012 American dystopian science fiction action film remake of the 1990 film of the same name, which was in turn loosely based on the 1966 short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick. The film centers on an ordinary worker who discovers that his life is made up of false memories implanted into him, and that his true identity is a secret agent. He then follows clues to regain his memories and returns to his role. Unlike the original film and the short story, the plot does not include a trip to Mars and exhibits more political overtones. The film blends Western and Eastern influences, most notably in the settings and dominant populations of the two nation states in the story: the United Federation of Britain, and the Colony.
Total Recall was directed by Len Wiseman, written by Mark Bomback, James Vanderbilt, and Kurt Wimmer, and stars Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, and Bill Nighy. It was first announced in 2009 and was released in North America on August 3, 2012, grossing over $190 million world-wide. The film was released to mixed to negative critical reception but received praise for certain aspects, such as its action sequences, while the film’s lack of humour, emotion, and character development drew most criticism.
At the end of 21st Century, after World War 3 devastates the Earth, the remaining habitable territory is at minimum and is divided into two — the United Federation of Britain (UFB) and the Colony (Australia). Many residents of the Colony travel to the UFB to work in their factories via “the Fall”, a gravity elevator, which travels through the Earth. A Resistance that operates in the UFB seeks to improve life in the Colony.
A factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) decides to visit Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories. Rekall employee McClane (John Cho) convinces Quaid to be implanted with memories of a secret agent. As Quaid is tested before being implanted, McClane discovers that Quaid has real memories of being a spy. McClane and his co-workers are suddenly gunned down by a SWAT team. Quaid instinctively reacts and kills the officers before escaping. He returns home to his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale), but Lori attempts to kill Quaid, revealing that she is not his wife of seven years, but an undercover UFB agent who has been monitoring him for the past six weeks. Quaid manages to escape, and Hammond (Dylan Scott Smith), a man claiming to be a former associate, contacts Quaid via a mobile phone embedded in Quaid’s hand and directs him to a nearby safe-deposit box. Quaid cuts the phone out of his hand to avoid being traced. In the safe-deposit box, Quaid discovers a recorded message from his former self, leading him to an apartment in UFB.
While being pursued, Quaid meets Melina (Jessica Biel), the woman from his recurring dream. She helps him escape and reach the apartment. Once there, Quaid plays a piano to trigger a second recorded message which reveals that Quaid was formerly Carl Hauser (an uncredited Ethan Hawke), a highly skilled agent working for UFB Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston). After defecting to the Resistance movement, Hauser was captured by the UFB and implanted with false memories. The recording reveals a plot by Cohaagen to use the robotic police force to invade the Colony to provide more living space for UFB, but that Hauser had seen a code that could stop the robotic forces. The code can be recovered from his memory with the aid of the Resistance’s leader, Matthias (Bill Nighy). Melina reveals that she was Hauser’s lover, but the two got separated when Hauser was captured. The police soon surround the building, trapping Quaid and Melina. Quaid’s friend and colleague from the Colony, Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), arrives and tries to convince Quaid that he is still in a Rekall-induced dream and that killing Melina is the only way to wake up. Quaid is conflicted, but decides to shoot Harry instead.
Quaid and Melina travel to meet with Matthias. While Matthias searches the memories of Quaid/Hauser, SWAT teams led by Lori and Cohaagen burst in. Quaid, Melina and Matthias are captured. Cohaagen informs Matthias that Quaid/Hauser was secretly working for him without even knowing it, owing to the alteration of his memories, and that the code was a fake to lure Matthias out of hiding. Cohaagen kills Matthias and orders Hauser’s mind restored, to make Quaid/Hauser loyal again. Cohaagen and Lori then take Melina away. Before Quaid’s mind is altered, the mysterious Hammond, posing as a SWAT team member, helps Quaid escape, but Hammond is killed in the process.
Cohaagen then launches his invasion of the Colony through the Fall. Quaid arrives at the Fall and manages to sneak aboard. He installs timed explosives within the Fall and searches for Melina. After freeing her, Quaid and Melina manage to climb atop the Fall as it arrives at the Colony. As Quaid and Melina fight the soldiers and Cohaagen, Quaid’s explosives detonate. Quaid and Melina jump off the Fall before it plummets beneath the surface with Cohaagen and his army still on board.
Waking up in an ambulance, Quaid is greeted by Melina. He notices the absence of a scar on her hand and realizes she is Lori in disguise. Quaid fights Lori and kills her. He and Melina then reunite as an advertisement for Rekall plays in the background.