This evening we watched Len Wiseman’s 2012 remake of Total Recall. Like the 1990 original, with good old Arnie, the remake is based on a typically ingenious Philip K. Dick short story, ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’. Were the constant rain in the dystopian metropolis and the aerial advertisements some sort of conscious hommage to Blade Runner (also based on a Philip K. Dick short story) we wondered, as the film got under way? In any case, we settled down in excited anticipation of a fresh take, twenty-three years on, doubtless making full use of all the technological advances in special effects that have since occurred. We were not, at first, disappointed. Screenplay writers Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback have the action take place on an Earth devastated by chemical warfare rather than the Mars of the Dick story and the more faithful 1990 version. Distinguishing itself from the typical dystopian riff of survivors in underground communities, the plot has the cities in the surviving United Federation of Britain (UFB) built high above the poisoned ground (we are treated to convincing depictions of a vertical China Town and sprawling aerial slums). The UFB’s factories are manned by a combination of robotic workers and human beings who commute every day from the Colony (the former Australia) via ‘The Fall’ – a gravity elevator that travels through the Earth. (This was perhaps a deliberate echo of the old lift cages in coal mines, which literally fell, powered by gravity and the weight of the miners on board.) Gradually, ‘fast-paced action’ takes over, with frequent chases with explosive conclusions and much use of heights and levels and lifts but, somehow, the film never rises to the level of its own ambitions and the happy ending is risible. ‘The past is a construct of the mind,’ is a key phrase in the plot but we are never allowed to let our imaginations explore the possible implications of this. Kate Beckinsale, playing Quaid’s treacherous ‘fake’ wife, Lori, never entirely convinces and I had to keep reminding myself that Quaid/Hauser’s ‘real’ wife was not actually Mrs Nicolas Sarkozy (Jessica Biel looking uncannily like Carla Bruni). Oh, and whenever I see the beetle-browed Colin Farrell (who plays the Quaid/Hauser main protagonist) sitting up bare-chested in a bed with white sheets up to his waist I can’t help but expect him to say something very, very rude about Bruges – and in this film he doesn’t.