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Surrogates (2009)

How do you save humanity when the only thing that's real is you?

Starring:

Boris Kodjoe

Bruce WillisBruce Willis

Devin Ratray

Helena Mattsson

Jack Noseworthy

James Cromwell

James Francis Ginty

Jeffrey De Serrano

Michael Cudlitz

Radha MitchellRadha Mitchell

Rosamund Pike

Rosamund Pike

Ving Rhames

Directed by:

Jonathan Mostow

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 104 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12A

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I just saw Gamer not too long ago, but while I was watching Surrogates, I had an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. I don’t blame either movie for stealing from the other, and they’re not the same story, but really, when you’ve seen one “People Can Control Fake Versions of Themselves from Home” movie, you shouldn’t see another within the same month. But I did, so my opinion of Surrogates may be skewed. I give it to this one, though—overall, it’s a more interesting look at a possible Sim-obsessed future.

See, in this Surrogates world, much of the population, at least the US population, relies on a “surrogate” to perform their daily activities. Sitting at home, hooked up to a computer, their brain waves are able to control better looking robot versions of themselves that function as regular humans. But when things start getting messy and the son of the inventor of surrogacy is killed while hooked in to a surrogate, Det. Tom Greer (Bruce Willis), himself working for the first time in years without a “surry,” tries to figure out just how exactly someone is doing the impossible—killing people through their surrogates.

Surrogates has an interesting premise, not necessarily the world-gone-fake thing, but the whole idea of what we would become if given the choice of having an improved version of us milling about in the world. It’s interesting that Willis’s Greer has a surrogate that looks basically like him—actually, like him with bad hair—as if he’s still not really committed to the idea. There are, in fact, a lot of interesting concepts relating to the surries and why some people choose, or don’t choose, to use them (Greer’s wife Maggie, played with a subtle sadness by Rosamund Pike, hides from the world behind her bot, while an overweight computer tech whose name escapes me chooses NOT to surrogate, making him one of the only “average” looking people in a world of hyper-beauty). Had the story stuck to the moral and psychological conundrums a little more, instead of paralleling them with a convoluted whodunit that would have been better served with a few less red herrings, it would’ve felt a little more substantial. The ending resonated with me, as did Willis and Pike’s performances, but the overall feeling that someone was trying to mix a thinking movie with an action movie with a twist-ending-that’s-not-really-the-twist winds up making an OK movie feel like a bit of a mess.

It's Got: A better mystery, less convoluted “twists,” better uses for James Cromwell and Ving Rhames

It Needs: Interesting concepts, good Willis performance, bad Willis hair

Alternatives:

District 9, District 9, Gamer, Watchmen

Summary

Not the film it could’ve been, Surrogates brings some intriguing ideas and performances, but is ultimately a bit too convoluted and messy when it tries to be a hybrid of too many genres.

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