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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr


Total Recall
Inspired by the short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" by Phillip K. Dick
Screen Story by Ronald Shusett & Dan O'Bannon and Jon Povill and Kurt Wimmer
Screenplay by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback
Directed by Len Wiseman
Released in 2012

A factory worker feels like something is missing from his life and goes to the memory implant agency Rekall to live a superspy fantasy which turns all too real.


Read the complete Total Recall movie synopsis at IMDB


Didja Know?


This film is a remake of the 1990 film of the same name.


This study is based on the expanded edition of the film found on the Blu-ray release, which is about 20 minutes longer than the theatrical release. I will be pointing out differences between the theatrical and expanded editions along the way.


Didja Notice?


The opening narrative of the film states that global chemical warfare has left the Earth nearly uninhabitable by the end of the 21st Century. Only two habitable regions are left, the United Federation of Britain (UFB), consisting of most of western Europe, and the Colony, formerly known as Australia. This makes living space tight, resulting in cities built up into multiple levels. The two regions, virtually opposite each other on the sphere of the Earth, are connected by the Fall, a gigantic elevator that travels through the core of the planet between the two regions.


The Fall is based on the real world concept of a gravity train, though the practicality of ever building one on Earth is slight.


The opening images of the film seem to depict the Fall tunneling straight through the Earth from the Colony to London, England. But a straight shot through the Earth from London does not land in ends up in the middle of the ocean over 500 miles southeast of New Zealand! Look it up on the Map Tunneling Tool. I suppose the Fall tunnel may not be dug straight through the center of the planet, but the intro of the film seems to imply that it is. However, a schematic image at 11:43 on the Blu-ray does seem to show a curve in the route of the Fall, but it also depicts the Australian end of the tunnel on the southern coast instead of in the middle of the Northern Territory as seen in the intro!
The Fall from the introduction The Fall on an information screen


As in the original film, Quaid sees Melina in a dream before he encounters her in his recalled-life-as-a-spy/memory-implant-fantasy. The fact that he has already had this dream of her provides some evidence that the story we see through the rest of the film is real.


Actor Ethan Hawke shot a few small scenes as Carl Hauser which were cut from the original theatrical release. The scenes have been re-added for the extended cut. The story explains that Hawke is what Hauser really looks like; his face was changed along with his memory by Cohaagen as part of the plot to implant Quaid into the resistance movement. In the theatrical cut, the facial change part of the plan was dropped to simplify the story.


In the 1990 film, we never learned Hauser's first name (though the novelization seems to suggest it is Douglas, the same as Quaid). Here, we learn it's Carl.


At 8:37 on the Blu-ray, the Fall is visible not too far away from Quaid's outside deck.


During the introductory scenes of Quaid's life in the Colony, a number of business signs and ads are seen. Cheng Apothecary and Drugs is visible; this appears to be a fictional business (at least in 2012). Bento is a Japanese takeout meal for one. Matpewka is a Russian word for "mother". Dragon noodles are a spicy Chinese dish; at 43:22, we see that this sign is from a boat-based vendor at dockside selling dragon noodles. There are a number of real world restaurants called Noodle House. Chin's Grand Master is an unidentified business; another Chin's sign is seen in London at 1:39:22.


At 9:17 on the Blu-ray, the end of the Rekall commercial has the slogan, "We Can Remember it for You." This is a reference to the Phillip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" upon which both the 1990 and 2012 Total Recall films are based.


At 9:34 on the Blu-ray, a banner at the entrance of the Fall in the Colony reads "We Welcome You" in Czech (Vítáme Vás) and another language I don't recognize.


At 9:58 on the Blu-ray, an adverstising sign in Chinese reads "Chocolate" and below it "pearl milk tea." (Thanks to Mike J. of the Total Recall Movie Props Reference page for spotting and translating this!)


The overhead announcement heard as Quaid and Harry board the Fall informs us that the trip from the Colony to the UFB takes only 17 minutes. But at Earth gravity, the fall would actually take about 42 minutes to complete.


At 11:43 on the Blu-ray, notice that the weather forecast on the information screen shows the exact same temperatures predicted for both the Colony and the UFB, despite being on opposite sides of the world! Also, the word "forecast" is misspelled "forcast".


At 12:28 on the Blu-ray, notice that someone's keys are seen floating through the cabin of the Fall as they reach null gravity at the center of the Earth! A couple of coffee cups are also seen floating just seconds later.


At 13:11 on the Blu-ray, the corporate brand called Tokonoma is seen both on the train and on the factory buildings where Quaid and Harry work. Tokonoma is seen to be the manufacturer of the synthetics who act as the police force.


The Total Recall Movie Props Reference page, points out that the Japanese writing on the Tokonoma logo signs actually translates to "Beds, Ltd."!


At 13:17 on the DVD, notice that the factory workers' lockers have small information display screens on the interior side of the door. Color bars on the displays can be seen subtly shifting throughout the scene. The displays probably present work shift charts or something similar.


Harry tells Quaid to stay away from Rekall, saying that a former co-worker at the factory named Travis went there for his bachelor party to "be king of Mars or some shit," and Quaid remarks he'd like to go to Mars. This is a veiled reference to the 1990 film, in which the Quaid character became a hero of Mars; it may also be a reference to the John Carter, who comes from Earth to become the Warlord of Mars in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom novels.


Quaid shows the new guy at his job how to hold the chest piece of the synthetic as he welds it into place so as not to get injured. The guy acknowledges it verbally, but then goes right back to holding it the wrong way again!


The scene of Quaid in the Human Resource office of Tokonoma in the extended version of the film does not appear at all in the theatrical cut. Instead, there is a scene of Quaid's supervisor telling him he did not get the promotion he wanted, with an implication that people from the UFB receive favorable treatment over those from the Colony.


At 16:06 on the Blu-ray, Quaid's employee personnel file reveals he is a citizen of New Asia. Is that the official name of the Colony? Most of the signs in the Colony are in Oriental script.


Quaid's personnel file also reveals his apartment number is Conapt 1225 and his date of birth is 7/6/087. "087" must mean 2087. "Conapt" is also the term used for the apartments in the novelization of the 1990 film.


At 18:29 on the Blu-ray, a business called Anwa is seen.


At 18:42 on the Blu-ray, Quaid pulls a futuristic-looking bottle of Heineken out of the refrigerator.


According to the director's commentary on the Blu-ray, the photo of Lori and friend on the refrigerator door at 18:50 on the Blu-ray is actress Kate Beckinsale with her friend Amber Batty.


As Quaid meets Harry at the bar at 19:23 on the Blu-ray, Harry asks him if Lori is working tonight and Quaid replies, "Yeah." But we know that Lori is already back at their conapt asleep, having left a note on the refrigerator door that she went to bed early due to a hard day at work. So, why did Quaid lie about it to Harry? It seems like it was only done because it sets up a scene later on the in the film when Harry is trying to convince Quaid he's stuck inside the Rekall spy fantasy and he says, "As soon as I told her what was happening at Rekall, she came straight over. I had to call her at work," which helps to tip Quaid off that Harry is lying.


Listening to the piano player at the bar, Quaid remarks to Harry that he'd always wanted to learn to play the piano. Later in the film, we learn that he does know how to play because Hauser learned. He just doesn't remember at this point that he knows how.


At 21:11 on the Blu-ray, an ATM machine for First Bank of New Asia is seen. First Bank is where Quaid later goes to retrieve the items left in a safe deposit box by Hauser.


Notice that the prostitute at 22:19 appears to be a robot. In fact, a number of what appear to be sex-bots are seen walking the street in the neighborhood in which Quaid finds the Rekall office.


At 22:40 on the Blu-ray, notice that the three-breasted prostitute is seen briefly in the background watching Quaid before she makes her official appearance 10 seconds later. The three-breasted prostitute is an iconic background character from the 1990 film; in that film, her name was Mary.


"Mary's" line here, "You're gonna wish you had three hands," is inspired by Benny's line to her in the 1990 film, "Oh, baby, you make me wish I had three hands."


The receptionist at Rekall is the same woman who appeared in the Rekall commercial viewed by Quaid at 9:17 on the Blu-ray. She's even wearing the same outfit!


The big head statue in McClane's office at 24:28 on the Blu-ray appears to be that of a Buddha of eastern Buddhism religion.


At 27:07 on the Blu-ray, McClane's assistant at Rekall places an ink mark (in the shape of a peace symbol) on Quaid's right arm to indicate where the IV will be inserted into his vein. This becomes important at the end of the movie in the expanded version.


The statue at 29:36 on the Blu-ray is known as a reclining Buddha.


At 31:26 on the Blu-ray, reporter Yvonne Yoe is seen reporting on the shootout at Rekall. "Yvonne Yoe" is one of the names used in some countries to represent an unknown or unidentified female, much as Jane Doe is used in the U.S.


Lori, incredulous at Doug's statement that he's the one who killed all the officers at the Rekall clinic, asks, " killed them? With what, honey, your book?" This statement along with the fact that we see him reading a book on the Fall seems to suggest that he is a voracious reader and tends to carry a book with him. Notice also there are a lot of books on the shelves (and stacked on the floor) in his and Lori's conapt. Books are also seen in Hauser's apartment (under his Reed alias) when Quaid escapes there briefly with Melina later in the film.


Lori's hair is tied into a pony-tail at the beginning of the fight with Quaid in their apartment, but suddenly disappears when he smashes her into the light fixture above the bed.


Right after the part of the fight mentioned above, Lori kicks Quaid into the steps leading into the sleeping area. At 34:24 on the Blu-ray, it's obvious that he hits a thick crash pad overlaying the steps. The pad is gone in the next shot.


At 36:50 on the Blu-ray, the book sitting on the step appears to be Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris (2006).


At 38:32 on the Blu-ray, a sign reading "pectopah" is seen. This is Russian for "restaurant".


Hauser's friend who calls Quaid to give him a quick head's up about what's happening to him is named Hammond. In the 1990 film, he was called Stevens. Oddly, Hauser also has a fake identity with almost the same last name, "Hamond" as seen on one of the passports found in the safe deposit box later.


At 42:10 on the Blu-ray, something labeled Sure Glo is sitting next to the young woman's right on the steps.


When the police robot takes the "hand phone" apparatus away from the young man, the man calls the robot "Robodick". This may be a nod to the 1987 film Robocop, which was directed by the 1990 film's director, Paul Verhoeven.


At 43:04 on the Blu-ray, Lori walks past a holo-ad for a night club advertising hard porno with "no synthetics". Presumably this means no sexbots, as the robotic police in the film are also referred to as synthetics by Cohaagen.


At 43:10 on the Blu-ray, a neon sign for Hammer + Sickle, a Russian brand of vodka, is seen.


Opening the safe deposit box Hauser set up under an assumed name, Quaid finds passports for different identities: Charles Hamond, Ken Zhao, and Henry Reed (possibly others). While looking at the Henry Reed passport, the type at the bottom of the identification page has a typo in the name, reading "Reed/Henty".


At 47:50 on the Blu-ray, we see that the 50-unit of UFB paper currency has the picture of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. Director Wiseman explains on the director's commentary that the man on the 1000-unit note next to the Obama is Wiseman's dad!



The heavyset woman seen at 50:03 on the Blu-ray is a callback to the woman Quaid disguised himself as in the 1990 film. Here, it is a red herring, as it is the Asian man (the Ken Zhao identity) behind her who is actually Quaid in disguise.
Quaid's disguise 1990 Quaid's disguise 2012


When Quaid's facial disguise necklace malfunctions, it flashes images of Quaid and the other identities seen on the fake IDs he found in the safe deposit box at the bank.


At 51:30 on the Blu-ray, an ad for Kropek is seen on the wall in the background. Kropek is a type of deep-fried cracker made of starch and flavored with shrimp or prawn, popular mainly in Asia.


During the police chase on the London freeway, we see exit signs indicating The City, Westminster, Westminster Bridge, St. Thomas' Hospital, Waterloo, Bank, Pimlico, Southwark, Victoria, and Embankment. These are all places in London.


Real road names are also seen during the police chase: A400, A302, A201, and Court Road (though Interstate 19, spoken of by the police forces, appears to be fictional).


At 53:23 on the Blu-ray, there appear to be buildings in the background with signs at the top marking them as M*O*E*R*K and Declaration Books. I assume these are corporations, fictitious ones.


At 53:55 on the Blu-ray, a building of the Tokonoma Corporation is seen in London.


At 53:58 on the Blu-ray, Melina's hovercar appears to have the Chrysler emblem on the front grill. At 54:07, the back of her car bears the Chrysler name.


At 54:01 on the Blu-ray, an advertisement for what appears to be a film in the Underworld franchise is seen. Total Recall's director, Len Wiseman, is one of the producers of that series and also directed the first and second films of the franchise. Underworld is an action-horror franchise set in a world where vampires and werewolves live amongst humans. Amusingly, the promotional review below the title appears to call this future installment, "the best musical ever".


At 54:14 on the Blu-ray, a billboard shows an advertisement with the slogan, "FINGERTIPS, WORLD. WORLD, FINGERTIPS".


At 54:18 on the Blu-ray, the police hovercars are seen to have been made by Dodge.


At 54:32 on the Blu-ray, a business in the background is Ludwig Poe Bar and Grill.


At 55:02 on the Blu-ray, a large Coca-Cola sign is seen. Another is seen in the no-zone at 1:26:14. Spot the sponsor.


At 55:17 on the Blu-ray, a clock on the Forsstrom building in the background reads 5:25 PM at the time of the car chase scene. Forsstrom is a Swedish company that manufactures high frequency welding equipment.


At 55:33 on the Blu-ray, the chase moves past St. Thomas' Cafe and...the UFB Sci Fi Festival!


At 55:42 on the Blu-ray, the chase moves past a building featuring banners reading McArthur Plaza. I've not been able to find such a place in London in modern day.


At 55:48 on the Blu-ray, the chase moves past the Farnsworth Inc. building. This appears to be a fictitious company.


At 56:12 on the Blu-ray, signs for Toper Beer, Major Chung Inc., Jade Dragon Micro Systems, and Black Turtle are seen. These appear to be fictitious businesses.


At 56:34 on the Blu-ray, Quaid uses a Chrysler Uconnect terminal in the vehicle. Uconnect is Chrysler's wireless internet service offered in their vehicles.


At 56:50 on the Blu-ray, the Pepper Hotel is seen. This appears to be a fictional hotel.


At 57:03 on the Blu-ray, Union Cafe is seen. This is a real world cafe in London.


A sign on the back of the bus at 57:35 on the Blu-ray advertises Connaught Gardens. This is a real place in London, built around 1820 and named after the Duke of Connaught, the third son of Queen Victoria.


Immediately after the crash of the hovercar, the unconscious Melina's head is in two different positions in shots from various angles.


At 58:02 on the Blu-ray, Big Ben is seen in the background.


At 59:46 on the Blu-ray, we can see that the piano that Quaid later plays is made by Yamaha.


A copy of Bonniers Konversations Lexikon Vol. VII is on top of the piano, as seen at 1:02:22 on the Blu-ray. This is a Swedish encyclopedia volume.


The first musical piece played on the piano by Quaid is Piano Sonata No. 14 by Beethoven, 1801. The second piece is Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 17 from 1802.


The holographic message left by Hauser for whoever he becomes after the memory implant by Cohaagen is performed, in the expanded edition, is mostly by Ethan Hawke. In the theatrical release, it is Colin Ferrell the entire time, since the face change aspect was cut out of that version.


Quaid tells Melina he was born on August 29, but that seems to be part of his memory implant from Cohaagen. Melina tells him he was born April 29. But his personnel file at Tokonoma showed it as 7/6/087, (July 6)!


Why does the tear from Melina's eye convince Quaid that the events are real and he should shoot Harry instead of her? Obviously, this scene is inspired by the one in the 1990 film in which the drop of sweat on Dr. Edgemar's brow convinces Quaid that Edgemar is a real person trying to trick him and not the artificially implanted dream person he claims to be. But, in that film, the sweat indicates that Edgemar is lying about it all being Quaid's dream, because it shows Edgemar is nervous about his own safety at the point of Quaid's gun. But here, Melina is not the person trying to convince him the events around him are all in his mind, so it would seem the tear could be that of a real person or that of the dream-construct of Quaid's own mind.


The shot of the police robot getting its arm torn off while hanging off the elevator is inspired by the similar scene in the 1990 film in which Rictor gets both of his arms lopped off.


At 1:20:37 on the Blu-ray, a couple of roadway exit signs read Brixton, Gatwick, Brighton, Marble Arch, and Baker St. Brixton is a district of London, Gatwick an airport outside London, Brighton a city on the south coast of England, the Marble Arch a monument in Westminster, and Baker St. a major thoroughfare in Westminster.


At 1:21:30 on the Blu-ray, we see the UFB National Bank, needless to say, a fictional corporation.


The resistance is seen to use the old London Underground tunnel system to move around. The Underground, also popularly known as the Tube, is the mass transit subway system currently used in London and its environs and has been in operation since 1863. At 1:22:43 on the Blu-ray, signs indicating loading points for Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, and Circle lines are seen; these are routes within the system.


The expanded version of the film reveals that Melina is the daughter of Mathias. This was cut from the theatrical release.


The uninhabitable regions of Earth are referred to as no-zones.


At 1:26:17 on the Blu-ray, old ad signs for Budweiser and Phantom of the Opera are seen in the no-zone. Budweiser is an American beer and Phantom of the Opera is a much-performed musical play based on the 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux.


A large gas cylinder tank is seen at the resistance hideout at 1:26:29 on the Blu-ray. It has a label for the Pawton Asset Co. on it. This appears to be a fictional company


A shelf of canned and jarred foods is seen in the resistance hideout at 1:27:05 on the Blu-ray. One canned food brand appears to be Success. I've not been able to confirm this as a real world company.


A metallic box mounted in the resistance hideout is labeled Cyclone Filter. It is a type of filter for separating particulates from air.


The police agent who laser-cuts Quaid's arm restraint in the memory chair is his old friend Hammond, seen in the video phone call earlier in the film.


The departure/arrival time screen seen on the Fall at 1:45:39 on the Blu-ray has the same information as the one seen near the beginning of the movie. The problem is, the Fall was travelling from the Colony to the UFB in that earlier scene but is now travelling from the UFB to the Colony, so the information seen now is incorrect. And at 1:48:15 it still shows the same arrival/departure times in the background; and again at 1:52:58, after the Fall has already arrived!


At 1:47:01 on the Blu-ray, the words "Synthoid Type RT-3100" on the police robot's head are mirror-reversed, indicating the shot was flipped in editing. The digital word "Stasis" on the robot's visor is depicted correctly, being a CG image created in post-production.


Notice that the black police robot that accompanies Cohaagen seems to have better hand-to-hand combat ability, agility, and autonomy than the standard white models.


At 1:59:10 on the Blu-ray, notice that the scar is missing from Melina's hand, which tips Quaid off seconds later that she is not really Melina.


It's a little difficult to tell what happens at the end of the fight inside the ambulance, it goes by so quickly. Notice at 1:59:45 on the Blu-ray that both electro-paddles are in place on the defibrillator in the ambulance just before Quaid is thrown against the device by Lori. He knocks one paddle off as he hits it and he must have bumped the charging button as well because we can hear the whine of the device charging up. Then, fifteen seconds later, Quaid grabs the loose paddle and presses it against the metal wall of the ambulance, shorting out the electronics and distracting Lori enough to allow him to grab her gun away and shoot her.


At 2:00:57 on the Blu-ray, notice that Quaid quickly checks Melina's hand again to confirm it is really her.


The shot of Quaid removing the bandage on his inner elbow and seeing the peace stamp missing was not in the theatrical cut of the film. The lack of the stamp here (applied for the IV insertion point at Rekall) suggests that he may be experiencing all this in his mind after all. It seems unlikely the stamp could have washed or rubbed off, while the bandage (and shirt sleeve) was covering it, in such a short time. And there doesn't even appear to be the pinprick scab/scar that would have been left by the insertion of the IV needle. 


Unanswered Questions


The obvious unanswered question is whether Quaid's adventure was real or just part of the memory implant he receives at Rekall.


Evidence that it's real:
  At the very beginning of the movie, Quaid's dream features both himself and Melina attempting to escape from federal police. How could he be dreaming about a woman he'd not yet met? This is the strongest bit of evidence that Quaid is just a cover personality for the original man, Hauser, who met Melina previously as part of his undercover mission to infiltrate the resistance.  
  At 11:52 on the Blu-ray, Quaid is reading The Spy Who Loved Me on the Fall. This is a 1962 novel of the James Bond series by Ian Fleming. Quaid's reading this particular novel may be a clue that he really is Hauser, craving the spy life he formally led; plus, the title could be a reference to his forgotten love for Melina. On the other hand, it could also merely be the reason he is in a "spy mood" when he goes to Rekall for a memory implant later in the film.  
Evidence that it's a dream:
  At 25:58 on the Blu-ray, McClane suggests that Quaid could choose the memory implant of a secret agent, with clandestine bank accounts and coded messages, working for the resistance...or Cohaagen...or why not both? All of these come true by the end of the movie.  
  McClane claims that it's dangerous for anyone to have a memory implant of a fantasy similar to something they've already done, for example, having a mistress. When Quaid is about to have his spy fantasy implantation, McClane is studying the computer readouts and suddenly sees that Quaid really is a spy and shouts to his assistant to pull the IV out before the drug takes. But it seems that if such a scenario were really so dangerous for the participant, there would be a much more thorough vetting of the customer before the procedure began. This is a clue that the rest of the story from this point is Quaid's dream/implant.  
  The lack of the peace stamp on Quaid's inner elbow (applied for the IV insertion point at Rekall) at the end of the film suggests that he may be experiencing all this in his mind after all. It seems unlikely the stamp could have completely washed or rubbed off, while the bandage (and shirt sleeve) was covering it, in such a short time. And there doesn't even appear to be the pinprick scab/scar that would have been left by the insertion of the IV needle.   


Notes from the Director's Commentary on the Blu-ray


Director Len Wiseman points out that the Fall elevator is designed with two sets of doors above/below each other for entrance/exit. When the zero gravity area at the core of the Earth is passed, the passenger cabins rotate along an axis to orient with the new gravity direction on the other side of the core, so the cabin is now aligned with the second set of doors.


Wiseman said he shot the film with a specific idea of which story was the true one, i.e. reality or dream. He says that if all the clues are found and put together, they lead slightly more towards one than the other. Given his statement, and from the evidence I've pieced together (though I may have missed some clues), I'd have to say the story is Quaid's dream/implant.


Wiseman says that Hauser really did switch to the side of the resistance. When Cohaagen captures Quaid and is about to have Hauser's memories re-implanted, they would be his memories before he switched to the resistance, so Cohaagen would have his old friend back, before he turned traitor.


Notes from the Insight Mode on the Blu-ray


In early versions of the script, the UFB was instead referred to as Euromerica. (It may be that the "New Asia" reference seen on Quaid's personnel file in the film as his place of citizenship, instead of the Colony, is also a leftover from an earlier script.) 


Memorable Dialog


wake up.wav

some better dreams.wav

the Fall enslaves us all.wav

We Can Remember it for You.wav

king of Mars.wav

don't mess with your mind.wav

I'm a people person.wav

you're gonna wish you had three hands.wav

secret agent.wav

those assholes screwed with your mind.wav

there is no Douglas Quaid.wav

I give good wife.wav

if I'm not me, then who the hell am I?.wav

seven year itch.wav

you haven't even begun to see me try to kill you.wav

your name is Carl Hauser.wav

I was fighting for the wrong side.wav

none of this is real.wav

everyone seems to know me.wav

what if the best is gone?.wav

Hauser wasn't perfect, you know.wav 


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