Two decades before Inception, Total Recall had people questioning what was real or a dream. The movie was a wild ride of confusing and mind-melting action as it followed Douglas Quaid, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, to Mars to undermine a corrupt government. Or was it to take down a terrorist organization? Did he even go to Mars at all? Is he even Douglas Quaid? These questions run through your head through the entire movie, and are never fully answered, ending in an uncertainty. Arnold’s closing words echo the theme of the film: “I just had a terrible thought. What if this was all a dream?”
I loved watching this movie. Arnold is one of the coolest people ever, imho, and I love watching his movies. Although in he doesn’t fit the “secret agent” stereotype well, he plays the role of a confused agent like no other. He strikes a very imposing figure when fighting, and is very intimidating with a gun.
One of my favorite aspects was the special effects. Made in 1990, the many mutants and alien landscapes were very well done for the time. Melted heads, deformed body parts, and the famous triple-breasted woman all look as good as any modern CGI. Even the martian landscape was very realistic. But the technology pictured in the future are very ‘80s style. TVs are boxy and large, walls look plastic and fake, and clothing styles are still stuck in the ‘80s. Cars are oddly shaped and not aerodynamic at all. When Quaid gets into a self-driven cab, there seems to be too much open space in the back. It was just a box on wheels, and that seemed very wrong to me.
The best part was that you, the viewer, knew just as much as the characters, which was next to nothing. You are unsure if the events are happening or just implanted memories in Quaid’s brain. I was almost convinced, like him, when a “doctor” came in to convince him that he was dreaming, and needed to wake up to survive. Quaid saw he was lying, and decided to kill him. But that doesn’t answer the question, and you are still left clueless. Even at the end of the movie, when it is revealed that Quaid’s past self was working with the government, you still don’t know if the entire event is real. It’s never fully answered. But I believe that none of it was a dream. What convinced me is that there are a few scenes that do not have Quaid in them. There would be no point in them if it was just a fake memory. Also, if it was fake, I would think that he would be remembering it in the past, before he went to Rekall, not after. I may be wrong, but that’s the beauty of the movie. You never know.