Surrogates: Better than Bruce Willis’ Hairpiece

If human beings could live via proxy through robots controlled by an individual’s thoughts, without any danger to the user, the world truly could improve in a number of ways. War could be waged without a single loss of human life– when a soldier robot is destroyed, its controller can simply log into another. Policemen would be impervious to the attacks of criminals they pursue. Sports would be more strategic, and athletes could play their whole lives without injury to themselves. Murder, violence, and disease would dwindle down to record-low levels. But would living through a robot truly be living? Surrogates examines this world, and while Surrogates will likely go down in history as a massive box-office flop (due to a bizarre release date, an uninspired ad campaign that made it look like a Matrix ripoff, and a huge budget), those who see it will find it to be an entertaining and well-produced sci-fi film.

Bruce Willis stars as Agent Tom Greer, an FBI agent investigating the murder of two people through damage done to their surrogates. In the world of the film, the overwhelming majority of people live their lives through their surrogates, opting to let them go out into the world while they experience it from the safety and comfort of their home. If the news got out to the population that one could die while attached to their surrogates, it would potentially change society as a whole. That’s exactly what The Prophet wants, a dreadlocked revolutionary played by Ving Rhames, who serves as the leader in a reservation located in New York City free of technology. Agent Greer wouldn’t mind a change either– his wife, Maggie (Rosamund Pike), has refused to see him in real life after the loss of their child, and they live out their marriage via their surrogates.

After an exciting chase scene in which Greer chases down the man with the murder weapon, is nearly killed himself, accidentally crashes a helicopter into the human reservation, and is then destroyed by angry technophobes, it forces Willis to continue conducting his investigation without a surrogate, on his own in a world full of robots. He is perpetually nervous and easily startled by the sudden shift in sensation, and every bump, punch, or push he takes from someone is painful, since it comes from a strong metal being rather than your average joe. Luckily for the film, no one does the “one beat up man against the world” routine better than Bruce Willis. This is the type of film that fits his star quality like a glove. The supporting cast around him, including Rhames, Radha Mitchell, and James Cromwell, all do solid work, but the loveliest performance comes from Pike, who manages to convey emotion through the way she carries her surrogate’s pauses and physicality. When we see what she looks like in real life, it’s shocking to see what a toll a life of solitude and medicine has taken.

The writers, Michael Ferris and John Brancato, and director, Jonathan Mostow, last collaborated on Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, a film about how technology will rebel against humanity. Here, they create a film about how humanity will take advantage of technology to destroy each other– a far more realistic starting point, in my humble opinion (then again, the Terminators aren’t exactly models of realism). Between Breakdown, U-571, Terminator 3, and this film, Mostow has shown he can capably stage a thrilling action sequence with the best of Hollywood directors. The movie never fully takes off, content to stay within the realm of safe Hollywood sci-fi films, but the execution is handled well, with strong effects work at every turn and some terrific moments. In Surrogates, a surrogate salesman explains that early models just show you the outside world without letting you feel anything, but the higher-end models gives you all the feelings and sensations you want. As a sci-fi film, Surrogates is a higher-end model: strong ideas that are used not as a jump-off point for manic action and big explosions, but rather to build thought, character, and even feelings.

~ by russellhainline on October 17, 2009.

One Response to “Surrogates: Better than Bruce Willis’ Hairpiece”

  1. Perfect photo choice

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