Inevitably, if a film is based on a book, there will be a comparison or at least certain expectations. If the film is not a faithful adaptation, or does not at least pay proper homage to the source, it should stand on its own as a film. Based on the short story by Philip K. Dick, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, this second rendering of the book (the first being the Arnie version of 1990) is heavy on the action and as such stands alone as a good slice of Hollywood entertainment. It is sad, however, to see a fascinating story and pertinent socio-political themes go to waste.
Philip K. Dick’s futuristic creations always pave the way for excellent production design and this version really goes to town; but it is all rather too busy with director Len Wiseman’s vision looking like every single Chinatown in the world mashed into one, with synthetic cops that appear to be storm trooper knock-offs from Star Wars. Aside from the film’s obvious futuristic setting there are also a few entertaining sight gags and novel gimmicks that hint at how far in the future this is, like the bank notes with Obama’s face on it and the handy new cellphone technology. Of course, you can also expect several stock action shots such as lovers barrelling through the sky together as they escape gunshots and the random (not particularly impassioned) kissed that must be squished in quite quickly before the film ends.
Colin Farrell holds his own well in his second Philip K. Dick outing (the first being Minority Report), this time in the lead role. The fight scenes between him and Kate Beckinsale are excellently choreographed; but other than these kick-ass moments together, Beckinsale’s performance is surprisingly weak. Bill Nighy is sadly underused and even his brief time on screen, shared mostly with Farrell, feels like he is just reading the lines and going through the motions.
There is so much potential to take the audience on a real mind bender, which is sadly never realised. Everything happens quite abruptly and some of the editing is a bit random, causing the story to lose its flow and making you feel that you may have missed a scene. The whole premise of the film is meant to be about questioning reality, which is not ever brought to the fore and you never really speculate too much about what is real and what is a construction. Nevertheless it’s relentless pace, ceaseless action and endless chases are thoroughly enjoyable and will keep you riveted enough.