This is a movie in search of an ending. For 100 minutes, it is a slam-bang, humdinger of a movie. But then when you sit through 30 minutes of a mindless chase through the Philippines, on foot and vehicle, it dawns on you that writer/director Tony Gilroy doesn’t have a clue about where he’s going with this.
It starts out with Jeremy Renner in search of meds given to him by an evil government agency (the NRAG, National Research Assay Group, apparently some sort of offshoot of the CIA and the DOD) run, apparently, by Edward Norton and Stacy Keach, who have decided to terminate the program including the six or seven people who had volunteered to take the meds.
For 100 minutes it’s engrossing. But then the story just fades to black with the 30-minute chase and ends with nothing resolved, probably yearning for a sequel, a sequel in which I have little or no interest. I don’t like to be played like this. That’s a shame because Renner (replacing Matt Damon as the star, although Jeremy isn’t named Bourne, but Aaron Cross) gives a terrific performance. So does his companion, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who is also being chased by the evil agency.
Damon made a conscious decision not to participate and so did director Paul Greengrass, who took over after the first film and really made the Bourne films into something special. Those were good decisions by both men, although Greengrass probably would have insisted on an ending.
It might be a good idea to take a timer with you and leave after the first 100 minutes, unless you’re a male between 15-35, at which movies like this are targeted. That’s when the story ends and the special effects-laden chase begins. You won’t be any the wiser if you sit through to the end. But if you like mindless chases that have no cohesion or reason, racing over rooftops, motorcycles and cars cutting in and out of traffic, all the silly stuff you’ve seen thousands of times since Bullitt started it all in 1968 (for all the car chases that have been forced on movie-goers since 1968, the only two that stand out as high quality filming are Bullitt and The French Connection in 1971) this could be your cup of tea even though it goes on and on and on.
Films like this, with no satisfactory conclusion, do a disservice to movie fans. This is like a Perils of Pauline serial. I wouldn’t have been surprised had Gilroy added “tune in next year” before the end credits.
I don’t like movies set in a bleak future. I don’t like movies that are dark and basically devoid of trees and blue water. I don’t like movies with lots of robots and machines. This movie is set in a bleak future, is dark and basically devoid of trees and blue water, and is filled with robots and machinery. But I liked it.
Why did I like it? Based on Philip K. Dick’s short story, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” and a remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name, it’s a rip-snorting, nonstop, high tension experience that starts fast and ends faster. The acting by Colin Farrell and Jessica Biel is very good. Kate Beckinsale is beautiful but her acting is so over the top it seemed like it was camp at times.
Instead of using Mars, however, director Len Wiseman kept the characters on earth, but an earth in the future that has been devastated by chemicals and has only two living areas, United Federation of Britain and The Colony (which looks like it must be Australia from the map).
Farrell lives in The Colony, basically a slum, and travels underground to work in Britain, which is where all the upper crust live. “Rekall” is a place you can go to create memories that will make your life better, maybe. That’s what Farrell does and while he’s preparing for the treatment, all hell breaks lose, his life changes, and it’s nonstop action from there until the end.
Farrell is a terrific actor and carries the perplexion of his character off perfectly. He’s aided by good performances by Biel, Bill Nighy (who appears in so few scenes his role is little more than a cameo), and Bryan Cranston, who plays the bad guy who rules Britain and wants to annihilate The Colony.
The only fly in the ointment is Beckinsale’s performance. It’s hard to tell whether it’s her fault or Wiseman’s. Somebody should have seen it in the dailies and toned it down.
But that wasn’t enough to ruin the film for me.