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In 20 years of filmmaking, the British director Michael Winterbottom may not have become a household name, but he has produced an oeuvre of such variety to rate as one of the most consistently intriguing filmmakers on the international scene. He is probably best known in the US for a few comedies starring Steve Coogan, including 24 Hour Party People and last summer’s arthouse hit The Trip. But those are lightweights (albeit immensely satisfying ones) on a resume that also includes the brutal Jim Thompson adaptation The Killer Inside Me, the documentary The Road to Guantanamo, the sexually explicit 9 Songs, and the science-fiction romance Code 46. (As with Ang Lee, you sometimes get the impression that he picks his projects primarily from the desire to do something as different as possible as his last film.)

Total Recall

In the two decades since Total Recall, the theme of unreliable memory has sparked any number of other films, most of them more ambitious and rather better: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Memento, The Matrix, Inception, Shutter Island, The Truman Show, etc. Not that the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle set a very high bar. The Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” had been a Hollywood property for years, with David Cronenberg the most notable of a series of filmmakers who worked on adapting its premise of an ordinary man who pays for an implanted memory of being a secret agent on Mars, only to find out that he was just that before his memory was erased. Instead, Arnold got on board and brought in Paul Verhoeven to go gonzo on an over-the-top action spectacular.

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