Total Recall
(Paul Verhoeven)

Arnold Schwarzenegger in a scene from Paul Verhoeven’s  Total Recall  {Photo: TRISTAR PICTURES}

Arnold Schwarzenegger in a scene from Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall {Photo: TRISTAR PICTURES}

While films like James Cameron’s The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day and John McTiernan’s Predator are more often cited as quintessential Arnold Schwarzenegger performances, it’s Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall that most persuasively deconstructed the action movie star’s celebrity. Saddled in between Verhoeven’s satirical masterworks Robocop and ShowgirlsTotal Recall remains a key ornament to the filmmaker’s remarkable American mainstream run. The cliché that “they just don’t make them like they used to” casually applies to Verhoeven and particularly Total Recall insofar that no one knew how to upset the balance of expectations – a massive science-fiction blockbuster anchored by the planet’s most bankable movie star of the time – by parlaying its blue-collar action tropes for something thoughtfully existential. Adapted from a Philip K. Dick short story, Verhoeven’s backdrop of competing alien factions, rebellion, doppelgängers, and ruthless capitalists informs something even more broad: when every waking moment is a nightmare, sometimes it’s best to retreat to our dreams. 

Essential