Total Recall is a 1990 American dystopian science fiction action film directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, and Ronny Cox. It is loosely based on the Philip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”. It was written by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Jon Povill, and Gary Goldman, and won a Special Achievement Academy Award for its visual effects. The original score composed by Jerry Goldsmith won the BMI Film Music Award.
In 2084, Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a construction engineer on Earth, who is having troubling dreams about Mars and a mysterious woman there. His wife Lori (Sharon Stone) is dismissive, pointing out how life on Earth is perfect compared to the ongoing conflicts between rival factions on colonized Mars, in part due to actions by the governor of Mars, Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox), with rumors that an alien artifact has been located in the mines on the planet. Despite warnings from his co-workers, Quaid visits “Rekall”, a company that uses memory implants to give its clients experiences of fabulous vacations. Quaid opts for a trip to Mars (a program entitled “Blue Sky On Mars”) including an optional espionage facet. As he is put under but before the technicians can implant the memories, Quaid violently reacts, claiming they have blown his cover. The company re-sedates him, wipes his memory of the visit to Rekall, and sends him home in an automated taxi. Waking up in the taxi, Quaid exits and is soon cornered and attacked by his coworkers, forcing him to kill them to escape. Lori also turns against Quaid, claiming that their marriage is a fake created by memory implants. Quaid leaves her and escapes into the city before armed thugs arrive, led by Richter (Michael Ironside), Lori’s real husband and Cohaagen’s subordinate.
Quaid is contacted by an unknown man that warns him he is being tracked, and leaves him with a suitcase. Quaid takes refuge in an abandoned building and investigates the suitcase, which contains money, gadgets, and a video. The video is of himself, apparently called “Hauser”; Hauser explains that he used to work for Cohaagen but has learned something about the artifact, and underwent the memory wipe to protect himself. The video instructs Quaid on removing the tracking device, and then to get himself to Mars and meet “Kuato”. Quaid makes his way to Mars and follows clues left by Hauser to a bar in Venusville, the colony’s red light district populated by a number of people who are mutants due to poor shielding from radiation. There, he meets Melina (Rachel Ticotin), the woman from his dreams and Hauser’s former lover. She refuses to have anything to do with him, believing that Quaid is still working for Cohaagen.
Returning to his room, Quaid encounters Lori and Rekall’s President, Dr. Edgemar. Edgemar insists Quaid is living out the implanted memories, and offers Quaid a pill that would wake him from the dream. Quaid is about to take the pill when he sees Edgemar sweating in fear, and kills him instead. Richter’s forces capture Quaid, but Melina arrives to rescue him, with Quaid killing Lori in the process. The two race back to the Venusville bar, and with Benny, their taxi driver, escape into tunnels hidden behind the bar. Unable to locate Quaid, Cohaagen isolates and shuts down the ventilation to Venusville, slowly suffocating its citizens. Quaid, Melina, and Benny are taken to a resistance base, and Quaid is introduced to Kuato, a deformed humanoid conjoined to his brother’s stomach. Kuato reads Quaid’s mind and learns that the artifact is a reactor that, once activated, will create a breathable atmosphere for Mars. Suddenly, Cohaagen’s forces burst in, led there by Benny, and kill most of the resistance, including Kuato; Kuato, in his final words, instructs Quaid to start the reactor.
Quaid and Melina are taken to Cohaagen. Cohaagen shows them another video of Hauser, who reveals the Quaid persona was a ploy to infiltrate the mutants and lead Cohaagen to Kuato, thereby wiping out the resistance. Cohaagen orders Hauser’s memory to be reimplanted in Quaid and Melina to be programmed to be Hauser’s slave, but Quaid and Melina escape, making their way into the mines where the alien reactor is located. They work their way to the control room of the reactor, killing Benny, Richter, and the rest of his men along the way. Cohaagen confronts them in the control room, insisting that turning on the artifact will kill them all. Quaid tries to dispose of a bomb Cohaagen has planted, accidentally blowing out one of the walls of the control room and exposing them to the vacuum of the Martian atmosphere. Cohaagen is pulled into the Martian atmosphere and dies from choking and decompression. Quaid and Melina are also pulled out, but not before starting the reactor. As Kuato predicted, the reactor releases a massive plume of air that covers the surface of Mars, saving Quaid and Melina in time, and bursting the windows of Venusville, saving its population. As humans walk onto the surface of the planet in its new atmosphere (with blue skies), Quaid takes a moment to wonder if he is still living the memory before turning to kiss Melina.
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First Published: Feb 11, 2012 – Last Updated: Feb 18, 2013