Surrogates - Movie Review

  • 25 September 2009

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Lean and sleek, this futuristic thriller propels us entertainingly through its story without pausing for breath. Perhaps director Mostow was hoping we wouldn't notice how clunky the script is, with its rudimentary dialog and paper-thin plot.

It's been 14 years since a scientist (Cromwell) invented surrogates, robots controlled by brainwaves that let us experience anything. Now some 99 percent of the population has one, and people spend their lives in darkened rooms living virtually. Then FBI Agent Greer (Willis) and his partner Peters (Mitchell) discover that a guy (Noseworthy) has a weapon that can kill both surrogates and their human controllers. But the hunt for this weapon opens old wounds with the humans-only religious fanatics who live on reservations and follow the word of their Prophet (Rhames).

Visually, this film is seriously eye-catching, as we meet Greer and Peters as surrogates, so Willis looks like he did in his fit Moonlighting days (plus floppy blonde hair) and Mitchell looks like a bombshell super-agent. The same goes for their boss (Kodjoe) and Greer's estranged wife (Pike). This lets each actor add a playful twist to both incarnations of his or her character.
Meanwhile, other characters have surrogates that look nothing like them, or in one case have a collection to choose from.

The script grazes against provocative issues of eternal youth and physical perfection, but never dips beneath the surface, opting instead for a hackneyed subplot about marital angst caused by parental grief. In other words, the film never remotely develops the possibilities it raises, opting instead for a standard thriller plot with such heavy signposting that it's impossible not to solve every mystery far before the characters figure things out.

At least the effects are great, and Mostow never wastes any time at all, briskly racing through the story with a few huge action set pieces and a superb visual punch in the climactic sequence. But in addition to a little more subtext, the film could have used more humour and edge; it feels watered down and safe, and also rather choppy as it leaps past gaping plot holes on the way to a nonsensical denouement. Even so, it's pretty good fun.

Image caption Surrogates

Facts and Figures

Year: 2009

Run time: 89 mins

In Theaters: Friday 25th September 2009

Box Office USA: $38.5M

Box Office Worldwide: $117.3M

Budget: $80M

Distributed by: Touchstone Pictures

Production compaines: Touchstone Pictures, Mandeville Films, Top Shelf, Wintergreen Productions

Reviews 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
Fresh: 44 Rotten: 68

IMDB: 6.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Jonathan Mostow

Producer: Max Handelman, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman

Screenwriter: Michael Ferris, John Brancato

Starring: Bruce Willis as Agent Greer, Radha Mitchell as Peters, Rosamund Pike as Maggie, James Cromwell as Canter, Ving Rhames as Prophet, Helena Mattsson as JJ, Boris Kodjoe as Andrew Stone, Ian Novick as Andre, Devin Ratray as Bobby, Jack Noseworthy as Strickland, Danny F. Smith as Victim, Jeffrey De Serrano as Armando, Michael Cudlitz as Colonel Brendon, Trevor Donovan as Surrie / Greer

Also starring: James Francis Ginty, Max Handelman, David Hoberman, Michael Ferris, John Brancato