Surrogates (Jonathan Mostow, 2009)

06Aug10

Bruce Willis (Tom Greer), Radha Mitchell (Peters), Rosamund Pike (Maggie). Screenplay by Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato. Directed by Jonathan Mostow. Rating: 12A. Running time: 89 minutes.

Surrogates asks us to imagine a world in which everyone can plant their real physical selves in bed all day, and instead live life through a custom-designed artificial body – a surrogate. On an unsophisticated level, such a world has its naively obvious perks: we can pretend we neither age nor become fat, and car-crashes are no longer so tragic, nor are murders. This is because death is no longer death at all, except for our avatars. Police can now go about their jobs with a lot more zeal, and through some Stasi-style Big Brother techniques, surrogate criminals can even have their bodies deactivated just before the act, a little reminiscent of Minority Report-style intervention. What a perfectly Platonic sounding state…

In this world of remote-controlled robots, then, where it even takes the macho Bruce Willis time to grow the balls to walk around in his real physical body, he’s on a mission to find and get back a destructive device whose design has gone wrong: a Defence-department surrogate-destroyer that also accidentally fries the brains of the humans operating them. It turns out the technology’s creator thinks that’s not such a bad weapon after all – he’d designed surrogacy so the disabled could walk, not so everyone could appear to be cosmetically airbrushed. He, quite ridiculously, thinks it’s a chance to start humanity afresh, and this provides a good excuse for some ‘tense’ final scenes as a computer performs its eternal countdown towards destruction, and our hero has a battle against the clock to stop it…

Sigh. It really is all a bit too familiar, and becomes ridiculously run-of-the-mill when accompanied by a damn poor excuse of a script and a bunch of mindless bog-standard action scenes. It also probably doesn’t help that Bruce Willis here embodies a role so cliché now given his resumé that he may as well be John McClane, Jack Mosley or any of the other billion crime fighters he’s played throughout his career. Surrogates fails to impress, as yet another story of a well-intended technological advance thats use goes drastically wrong. It’s a very poor Minority Report 2. Don’t be fooled by its futuristic pretenses that appear to make it original; they’re about as deep as the surrogate bodies that fill the film itself.

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