Total Recall Movie Review

Resistance slogan:  “The Fall Enslaves Us All”

Total Recall is a futuristic story about an amnesiatic spy…but really it’s a story about a man’s quest for purpose in his life that applies to us all.

Doug is stuck in a boring, dead end, blue-collar assembly job, and he begins to question his existence.  He wants his life to count for something.  He wants to do something significant with his time on earth.  It begins in his dreams.  He tells his friend Harry, “I’ve been having these dreams.  Feels like I’m doing something, something important.  … Are you actually happy with how your life turned out?”  Clearly, Doug is not.

It sounds like your average mid-life crisis.  Doug’s looking for purpose and he dreams of more.  His pursuit of meaning takes him down a path of searching and experimentation.  He hears about a place called Rekall.  This is their slogan:  “Going somewhere?  No?  Don’t let that stop you.  We can give you a set of memories.  Rekall:  Let us remember it for you.”

If you think that sounds sketchy, you’re right.  It’s never a good idea when something promises to either erase or replace your past.  I want to make a side note here: there’s a significant difference between what Rekall promised and what Jesus offers.  Jesus offers to transform your past.  He can make good out of what seemed to have been intended for evil, but He never promises to erase or replace your past.  Rather than focusing on the past, Jesus focuses on giving you a hope and a future.[1]

Doug’s experience at Rekall went terribly wrong.  Of course, it seemed to go terribly wrong, but we find out later what a blessing that was in disguise.  He was willing to let a lie make him feel better, but what he found was the truth instead.  The truth didn’t feel better at first.  He was suddenly on the run for his life and had no idea who to trust or what was real.  It didn’t seem an improvement, but he was finally on the path of truth and that led to much better things in the end.  He wanted significance; he found it—and it was so much more real, more gritty, more dangerous, and more difficult than he ever imagined it would be.  It was also more purposeful than he imagined it would be.  He got more than he imagined, truly.

The truth was that he was a powerful double agent with secrets that both sides of the war were desperate for (one to get, the other to keep).  There was a battle going one between two forces on the planet.  Doug was on the side of the resistance whose slogan read:  “The Fall Enslaves Us All.”  (Please don’t’ miss the spiritual implications of that one![2])  Before his amnesia, he had been working to free people from the fall.  This is why he had been so unhappy with his factory job.  He truly was made for so much more.  Those dreams he was having—they weren’t just fantasies, they were realities he was remembering.

As Doug began to realize all the lies he had been told, all the lies he had believed the past few years, he began to be passionate about fighting against them and freeing others from the effects of the fall.  He wanted to end the reign of the power-hungry ruler, Cohaagen, who was enslaving everyone in the Colony.  Of course, the more he fought against the enemy, the more the enemy sought to destroy him.  His life didn’t get easier because he found the truth, but it did get more significant, which is what Doug was searching for.  Doug didn’t mind risking his life, as long as he was fighting for something that really mattered.

Cohaagen, the evil ruler, and Matthias, the leader of the resistance (the good guys) were talking about Doug.  Cohaagen wonders why Matthias would go to so much trouble, even risking his own life, to rescue Doug and help him know the truth.  “All this trouble for one man?” he asks.  Matthias answers, “Never underestimate the power of one man.  I don’t.”  Matthias was right to value the life of one man.  It was through this one man that the victory was won.

Doug, like so many of us, looked in all the wrong places for his answers.  His questions are right.  His instinct is right:  he was made for more.  His life should be more satisfying; it should have purpose.  But Doug was made for real purpose and future significance in the world, not a fake set of memories of former glory.  Rekall could only offer a false memory when what Doug needed was a future reality.  The Rekall tech was right when he told Doug, “You’ve got some tug, some longing.  …You’re here because something is missing.”  He was wrong, though, when he promised Doug that Rekall could give him that.

We don’t have a place that promises to implant memories into our brains…yet.  But we do have any number of other ways to try to fill our search for significance.  Just like Rekall, they promise to help us with our longings by either giving us a false sense of worth and fulfillment, or by simply numbing the questions and the pain we feel.  The only real answer, though, is to find the truth about who we are and what we were made for.  The only way to get that answer is to ask our Creator.  He knows what we were made for.

Just as in the movie, though, we are enslaved by the Fall,[3] and we too have an evil ruler who is working hard to keep us from finding out our true worth.  Why?  Because he knows that if we find out our worth and our purpose, we will dedicate our lives to freeing others from his lies and oppression.  The closer we get to the Truth, the harder he fights to stop us.  Just like Doug, we will find that our lives don’t get easier because we discover the Truth—in fact, they are likely to get harder.  I think, though, if we are honest with ourselves, what we long for isn’t an easier life, but a more significant life.  We are willing to face hardship if only it’s for something that really matters, and nothing matters more than freeing our fellow man from the effects of the Fall and uniting them with their God and Savior.

Matthias, the leader of the resistance, said he never underestimated the value of one man.  Neither does God.  The Bible is the story of the value God places on one man.  It is full of stories of the individual men God used to rescue others: Moses, Noah, David, Joseph, Daniel.  All these stories point to the bigger, overarching story of the one man, Jesus, who was able to save the world from Satan’s evil rule.  After Jesus’ ultimate victory, God commissions each of us to take news of that victory and spread it to every corner of the earth, setting captives free. “And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” [4]

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20

God so highly values the worth of every man that he sent his Son to die for them, to set them free from the Fall.  He sent His Son to die for YOU.  YOU are that one man that God values.  (Please don’t think this is a message for someone else…it’s for you!)  Not only did God value you so much that he gave His Son’s life to set you free, but He has also entrusted the spread of His Kingdom to you (and to me!).  Ever feel like you were made for more?  You were.  You were made to be dangerous, a highly valuable asset in the Kingdom of God, setting the captives free, bringing truth and freedom to the masses who are enslaved by Satan.  If your life is falling short of this, then know that you are missing out on something.  You are missing out on what God made you for.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Have you ever had that tug—those feelings and longings that Doug had—that you were made for something more, or that your life lacked the purpose and significance it was intended for?  At what times in your life have those feelings been stronger than others?
  • What are the things you have turned to to find answers to your questions, to find fulfillment for your longings?  What were the results?  Were those results temporary or long-lasting?
  • Rekall had a slogan:  “Going somewhere?  No?  Don’t let that stop you.  We can give you a set of memories.  Rekall:  Let us remember it for you.”   Think of the things in our world that mankind typically turns to for a quick fix to his search for significance.  What would their ad or slogan be?
  • The resistance said, “The Fall Enslaves Us All.”  How would that slogan apply to real life today?  What evidence do you see of the fall and of enslavement in your life or the lives around you?
  • Do you feel that God values you?  Why or why not?
  • What do you think you value more, comfort or significance?  Would you give up some comfort in your life if you knew it was for a purpose?  If you knew you were able to really make a difference in this world?
  • Would you say that you are fulfilling God’s purpose for your life?

By Stacey Tuttle

Click here to read a collection of Quotes from Total Recall.


[1] Jer. 29:11

[2] While we’re mentioning spiritual implications – Doug knew he could trust Melina because of the scar in her hand…it matched his own scar and fit perfectly with his recurring dream, and it was caused by a gunshot…I’ll grant you all of that.  But did anyone else notice the resemblance it bore to Jesus’ nail scars?  Do you think that was intentional or coincidental?  Doug knew Melina by the scars in her hand…just as Jesus’ disciples knew Him after he arose by the nailscars in His hands.  In fact, the enemy said they had to kill Melina because she was at the “epicenter” of his fantasy, just as the enemy knows he has to kill Jesus in order to stop His followers.  Since killing Jesus didn’t work and He rose from the dead, the focus is now on making Jesus appear dead, by discrediting Him and/or His resurrection in one way or another.

[3] Genesis 3

[4] Acts 1:8