After watching both Total Recall versions back to back I was struck by a very similar anomaly.

In both movies Quaid starts out bugged so Cohagen's people can track him (in the Arnold version he pulls a bug from his nose, in the Colin Farrell version the bug is extracted from a phone embedded in his hand).

After Quaid escapes the initial hunt and settles down somewhere safe, he is immediately found again and an attempt is made to persuade him he is still at Rekall. Not much time seems to have passed since the escape and the removal of the bug.

So the question arises: How did the government track him so fast with no bugging device?

4 Answers 4


I can only speak for the 2012 remake. They find him in his old apartment building and try to persuade him he is still at Rekall. If he is trying to figure out who he is, it is a logical assumption for those hunting him that he might end up at his old apartment to look for clues. His apartment is sealed by police tape, so the apartment or building could very easily have been under some type of surveillance. Also, he was carrying an unconscious Melina through the building and entering an apartment that was taped off by the police. People in the building could have reported this. So, it could be that they had a hunch he would go there, and verified he was there by people witnessing him entering the building carrying a woman. Or, the apartment was under surveillance in the first place. Melina did say that they shouldn't have come here, so it seems they would have been found there eventually for any of the above reasons.

  • +1 It does look like standard police work might do the job in the new movie, though whether it could happen this fast is unclear.
    – matt_black
    Sep 4, 2012 at 17:25
  • Very true. I think the main thing is that he has majority of the "Intelligence" division after him, so there is a big manhunt for him. And there's only so many places he can go to help him remember what he is supposed to be doing.
    – user1964
    Sep 5, 2012 at 15:08

In the 1990 film the explanation is pretty clear: Quaid create his alternate persona and simply informed Cohagen of the plans that he made. That way even when Quaid had removed the hidden transmitter from his bead, Cohagen would still know that Quaid plan entailed him infiltrating the Resistance and eventually returning to Mars. This would have tracking him relatively easy as Cohagen had inside information about his plans.

Cohagen also employs operatives (such as Benny the mutant taxi driver) who keep track of Quaid when he's on Mars. That way, even Quaid were to somehow figure out that his change of heart was really a ruse, there were already agents in place to track his movements and inform Cohagen as to where and later Kuato, leader of Mars's underground mutant resistance, were located.

The 2012 film is is even easier to understand as there were only two places where Quaid could be: The UFB or The Colony. Since there is no space travel and the rest of the Earth was a poisoned wasteland, Quaid was either in one or the other and as shown Cohagen had agents in both. Also, it can be surmised from the later video showing Quaid and Cohagen together that Cohagen knew about the entirety of Quaid's plans in advance.

Side note: While it's clear in the Philip K. Dick source novel We Can Remember It for You Wholesale That some of Quaid's (in the novel his name is Quail) memories are clearly fabrications, both film versions are portrayed as straight recitations of the events which occur. In both film narratives, Quaid is prevented from undergoing the Recall/Rekall memory process and, as such, is living out the events which unfold.


Total Recall 2012: The answer relies on the kid he traded his phone with. The "wife" makes him tell her what he knows. How does he know? He heard the open phone call while Quaid was talking in plain sight of everyone. After that I'm not sure...


I have not seen the remake but I remember in the original the entire thing was in Quaid's mind. The evidence is when they are putting him under and they ask him to describe his perfect girl and he says something like 'brunette, athletic, sleazy' and on the monitor they show Melina, the girl he meets later in the bar.

Either they happened by co-incidence to show a model inspired by what Quaid said which looked EXACTLY like a random girl on a different planet which he later met or it was the same girl and everything from then on was a part of Quaid's dream state - which is why is pretty much happened exactly as described in the sales pitch.

Once you consider that then it makes sense that Cohagen's men would find Quaid and there would be an exciting fight sequence where he out-smarted and out-fought everyone as that is what he has paid for.

PS - please do not downvote this because you do not agree he was in a dream state unless you have any evidence for why you think I am wrong and do not forget that I am referring only to the original, I have not seen the remake.

  • Both movies deliberately create ambiguity about whether the events play out in Quaid's mind, but on balance suggest they don't. Even if they do, though, I would expect some internal logic inside the dream to explain the question. "It's a dream so it doesn't have to be logical" doesn't quite satisfy me. I won't downvote, though.
    – matt_black
    Sep 3, 2012 at 15:13
  • Fair enough but how do you explain the girl he described for his dream looking exactly like the girl he later meets - you can see her face in the background on a monitor for a few seconds? (I know I sound like a parrot but just to be clear, I have not seen the remake so I am only refering to the original).
    – Stefan
    Sep 3, 2012 at 16:34
  • Explanation would be that he had already met that woman and fallen in love, before he was brainwashed to be the assembly line worker. Also, if I remember correctly, the description he gave was not detailed (something like "brunette and athletic") and the image on the screen was also not detailed.
    – Shiz Z.
    Sep 4, 2012 at 2:32
  • The image was her, literally her. The explanation that he had already met her a fallen in love does not work for me, the computer was generating images based on his description. If it was simply generating an image from his mind then there would be no need to ask him questions to describe it and no reason to remind him to 'be honest'
    – Stefan
    Sep 4, 2012 at 18:33
  • I didn't mean the computer read his mind. Instead, he thought he was describing some fantasy woman, but he was actually describing the woman he had already met and fallen for -- so it's no surprise that he described her accurately.
    – Shiz Z.
    Sep 4, 2012 at 18:59

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