Surrogates (2009)

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Published on: 2009.10.21

Bruce Willis, always known as a bankable action star, is increasingly becoming known as a sci-fi blockbuster name, with titles to his credit like Planet Terror, The Fifth Element, Armageddon, Twelve Monkeys, and others.

In Surrogates, he delivers again, though his character’s emotions are slightly muted. There’s a reason for that. In the futuristic world of the film, most humans rarely leave their homes, preferring instead to interact with the world through robot-like “surrogates.” Their frames resemble the robots in Terminator, but the outer skin is made with appearance in mind. All the surrogates are fit, good-looking, and have perfect complexion.

The humans who remotely operate these machines are soft, pale, unshaven, and in many cases unbathed. Quite a few of them haven’t been outside in years.

In the story, the surrogates were first marketed as a way to wage war without endangering soldiers, or to do dangerous jobs (think factory work or coal mining) remotely. Eventually, the surrogates became affordable for the common consumer, and provided a way to avoid the cold or heat, disease, accidental injury, or other terrors of the outdoors. Plus, you can pick the look you want — a younger you, a fitter you, or even someone else entirely.

Willis plays a cop in this society, and investigates a new type of weapon, one that can kill the surrogate while sending a signal back to the user/owner/operator that kills him/her.

There are some amazing action scenes, fight scenes, and tense sequences. Unlike many new movies, the action scenes are filmed from far enough away that you can see what’s happening.

In the end, the bad guy (I won’t reveal his/her identity) attempts to send a signal to every surrogate in the world, using this new weapon. Not only will it fry every surrogate, but will kill every operator that’s plugged in.

Willis’ character manages to stop the signal that will kill the operators, and then is supposed to click a computer key that will save all the surrogates too. He hesitates. Should he undo 11 years of technological advancement and the entire society that he knows? It’s tempting him…

I won’t tell you how it ends, but it’s pretty cool.

In a way, the movie reminded me of I, Robot, but more realistic and less dependent on CGI and with a better ending. It also reminded my wife and I of The 13th Floor, but with a less depressing ending and a lot more action.

Excellent supporting performances come from Ving Rhames, Rosamund Pike, and James Cromwell (who played a similar role to his character in I, Robot, only better).

Then why did I rate it an 8, instead of a full-out 10?

A few “main” characters felt hollow and could have been more fleshed out. (Then again, maybe this was intentional, to advance the feeling of a world without real human contact?)

In a couple of places, it felt like a “message movie,” which I hate. At one point, I wondered if the writers were talking about today’s society, where people hide behind air-brushed profiles on the internet, avoiding real contact.

Also, one plot point bothered me. The movie’s intro has a news clip saying that crime has all but disappeared, because people use surrogates instead of going into the world themselves. Well, sure, you won’t be mugged in the park if you’re not in the park, and there might be less drunk driving, but what about home invasions, rapes (many of which occur in the home), child abuse, burglary, etc.? In fact, people could even use their surrogates to commit these types of crimes. But the film works if you suspend your disbelief on this one point.

It’s definitely a fun ride, and any of its faults are wiped away by the non-Hollywood ending (again, I won’t give it away).

IMDb: Surrogates
Wikipedia: Surrogates
Rating: PG-13
(for intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, language, sexuality, and a drug-related scene)
Length: 88 min. (1:28)
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Genre: Action / Sci-Fi / Thriller
My Rating: 8 of 10
Family Friendly: No
Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Boris Kodjoe, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames

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