Total Recall

Total Recall ★★★★★

One of my favorite movies of all time, and I think one of the reasons I feel so strongly about it is how seemingly impossible it is that a movie like this even got made. It exists as (and fulfills every conceivable requirement for) a big scifi action blockbuster, while simultaneously subverting that form at every turn AND creating a genuinely unsettling atmosphere of psychic paranoia that's worthy of Philip K. Dick. Even Schwarzenegger, no one's idea of a master actor, puts in a fantastic performance - an audience surrogate for an audience that can never quite be sure where it is or how it's supposed to respond to what's on screen.

The big bits of action spectacle (human shields being riddled with bullets, a machine-gun-toting little person prostitute, etc) are all imbued with a pitch-black irreverence that seems to ask the basic question of why we like to watch movies like this - why is it fun to see people blown apart at the seams, and blood and guts strewn across the screen? I have no idea, it just is. But even the most diehard gorehound would probably be refreshed by Total Recall's acknowledgment that it's all just a little bit sick.

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