The human brain is capable of processing hundreds of billions of instructions every second, putting to shame many supercomputers.
But like those supercomputers, the brain is susceptible to viruses and corruption.
False memories can be planted – without any malicious intent: an older family member recounts a hilarious anecdote from our formative years and without any evidence to the contrary, we ‘create’ an image in the mind’s eye to match their perception.
The complexities of the brain, and the ease with which it can be tricked, are the central theme of this testosterone-fuelled remake of the 1990 Paul Verhoeven action adventure inspired by Philip K Dick’s short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.
Punctuated by thrilling action set pieces set to Harry Gregson-Williams’s bombastic score, Len Wiseman’s film barely pauses for breath to worry about characterisation as preposterous twist follows outrageous turn.
Fans of the Arnold Schwarzenegger version will be two steps ahead of the screenwriters but directorial brio and eye-popping special effects hold our interest when there is nothing on screen to fire our little grey cells.
In the late 21st century, Earth is a radioactive wasteland apart from two outposts on opposite sides of the planet: the prosperous United Federation of Britain ruled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) and the polluted, rain-saturated Colony, home to millions of workers and the underground resistance led by Matthias (Bill Nighy).
Factory worker Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) lives in this hellhole with his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) and travels to work in the UFB with best friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine) via The Fall: a giant elevator running close to the Earth’s core which links the two settlements.
Unfulfilled and frustrated, Doug visits Rekall, a shadowy company which promises to realise clients’ dreams by implanting artificial memories.
In Doug’s case, he wants to be a super spy.
Shortly before the procedure takes hold, Rekall technician McClane (John Cho) discovers that Doug’s memory has been wiped.
In the blink of an eye, the factory worker’s world implodes and he goes on the run in the company of rebel agent Melina (Jessica Biel).
It’s bombastic fun so long as you disengage your brain and submit to the gargantuan leaps in logic.
Wiseman directs set pieces with aplomb, including a dizzying pursuit through a tower block’s horizontal and vertical lift shafts.
Farrell energetically flexes his muscles and adopts a permanent look of befuddlement, telling Melina, “Everyone seems to know me but me.”
Beckinsale chews scenery, while Biel attempts to add depth to her two-dimensional heroine.
The film’s vision of the future is richly detailed and it’s comforting that while the rest of the world disintegrates, Britain rules the radiation waves.