Sunday, January 23, 2011

Schwarzenegger's identity crisis

Arnold Schwarzenegger's career has been one of reinvention: champion bodybuilder, Hollywood movie star, governor of California. Is it coincidence, then, that so many of his films have been concerned with the notion of identity? Here's a look at some of his notable identity-challenged roles.

The Running Man: Identity determined by television
The Running Man (1987)
Schwarzenegger plays Ben Richards, a cop in a bleak dystopian future of martial law. When Ben refuses to fire on unarmed civilians, he is turned over to the state-controlled television network's nightly game show, "The Running Man," in which colorfully costumed "stalkers" hunt down and execute supposedly felonious contestants. Ben is dubbed the "Butcher of Bakersfield" and redefined as a savage killer via deceptively edited surveillance footage. In order to reclaim his identity, Ben must not only survive the game, but commandeer the airwaves and broadcast the truth.

Total Recall: Facing the past
Total Recall (1990)
As Doug Quaid, Schwarzenegger plays an average Joe plagued by recurring nightmares about Mars. Desperate to understand the dreams, he attempts to have artificial memories of a vacation on the Red Planet implanted in his brain. After a mishap during the implant procedure, repressed memories apparently resurface and Doug becomes convinced that he is in fact a secret agent on a mission to expose the corrupt administrator of a Martian mining settlement. Pursued by assassins, he travels to Mars in order to learn the truth about his past, and to choose who he will be in the future.

True Lies: A secret life exposed
True Lies (1994)
Schwarzenegger's Harry Tasker is an operative for a top-secret government spy agency, an occupation he has hidden from his wife and daughter, who both think he is a humdrum computer salesman. When Harry suspects his wife is having an affair, he concocts an elaborate scheme to learn the truth and reignite his wife's interest in their marriage. Worlds collide when his plan is interrupted by terrorists who abduct the couple and expose Harry's life as a spy. While his wife attempts to comprehend the truth about Harry, the two must work together to foil the terrorists' deadly plans.

Eraser: Creating a new identity
Eraser (1996)
Schwarzenegger plays John Kruger, a US Marshal with the Witness Protection Program charged with safeguarding the key witness in the trial against a defense corporation accused of treason. To keep her safe, Kruger must "erase" the witness' previous identity and establish a new one. When corruption is uncovered within the protection program, Kruger must take extreme measures to protect himself as well.

The 6th Day: Adam and his clone
The 6th Day (2000)
As Adam Gibson, Schwarzenegger plays a charter pilot who is mistakenly cloned and who becomes the target of corporate killers wanting to cover up the illegal mistake. Adam enlists the help of his clone in order to confront the corporation responsible for the error and the attempts on his life, though he soon discovers that his true identity is even more complicated than he expected.


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