total recall

Total Recall (1990) breakdown

A construction worker dreams of a strange woman and discovers secrets in his own mind about possibly being a spy on Mars, where he finds the woman is a rebel fighting a man who may have been his old boss.

Many years ago, I did a commentary for this movie.

I’m breaking down movies by their three-act structure. What is three-act structure? I explain it here.

Note: I break the story down into five-minute blocks to make it easier to see the length of each section. Rough time codes follow.


Doug Quaid dreams of Melina on Mars. Lori consoles him. 5

Act 1

Quaid sees terrorism reports and talks about Mars (introducing the central conflict and the villain), goes to work 10

Quaid talks about Rekall with Harry. Quaid goes to Rekall. 15

Quaid picks secret agent fantasy. His memory cap gets popped. He is sedated. 20

Quaid awakens in cab, gets snatched by Harry and pals, kills them. Quaid finds Lori at home. 25

Act 2

Lori tries to kill him, confesses to living a fake life. He escapes, chased by Richter and pals. 30

Quaid escapes Richter and pals, gets on train. Richter talks to Cohaagen. Quaid gets a call and case from an old pal. 35

Quaid gets the case, escapes in cab when spotted. Video self says his life isn’t real. 40

Quaid extracts a bug. “Get your ass to Mars.” He escapes as Richter catches up. Quaid travels to Mars in disguise. 45

Quaid blows bomb when IDed, escapes on train, hears complaints. Cohaagen dresses down Richter. 50

Quaid goes to the Hilton, gets case with clue to find Melina. Terrorists attack as he gets in Benny’s cab. 55

Midpoint Crisis

Quaid finds Melina in mutant bar. She dresses him down. Benny takes him back to hotel. 60

Rekall doc shows up, tries to convince him to stop. He kills the doc but is knocked out by Lori’s thugs. 65

Melina attacks thugs, fights Lori. Quaid kills Lori. He and Melina escape Richter in Benny’s cab. 70

They go to mutant bar and slip into hiding. Richter shoots up the place. Cohaagen turns off the air. 75

Melina takes Quaid thru alien crypt. They have a romantic moment. Kuato’s men find them. Benny reveals he is a mutant. They go to the mutant Kuato. 80

Kuato psychically extracts knowledge of alien reactor. Richter’s men attack. Benny betrays, captures Quaid and Melina. Kuato is killed. (All seems lost!) 85

Act 3

Cohaagen taunts Quaid, prepares to brainwash him. 90

Quaid escapes brainwash machine, kills techs. They escape. Without air, the mutants are dying. Benny attacks Quaid, dies. 95

Quaid and Melina find the reactor. Richter catches up. Quaid tricks and kills them. 100

Cohaagen catches Quaid at the reactor switch. Melina shoots him. They activate the reactor but are swept outside. 105

Mars floods with oxygen, saving Quaid, Melina, and mutants (resolving the central conflict). 110

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *