Saturday, October 03, 2009

501 - Surrogates review

“Surrogates” presents us with a future where the warmth of human interaction is replaced by the detached thrills provided by technology. The vast majority of the human race lives via surrogate, a robotic replica of a person that allows the operator to go about their entire life without ever leaving home.

Alas, “Surrogates” has the idea, but lacks the direction and heart. The whole film feels switched to autopilot, coasting through the standard motions without much concern for style or emotion. As the film began, my mind raced with thoughts of its enormous potential: what would life be like were we able to live it without concern for our physical selves? It’s a question clearly inspired by one of the philosophical topics of the Internet Age, where individuals have been known to disappear almost entirely into online personas. But ‘Surrogates” seems made by people with no serious interest in big questions, just collecting a paycheck.

Bruce Willis stars as Tom Greer, an FBI agent who, like most, lives his life through a surrogate. His surrogate looks like (what else?) Bruce Willis minus fifteen years and plus a lot of hair. When Willis tries, he can be one of mainstream film’s best heroes, stalwart and unwavering in the face of a challenge. Here we see the other (all too common) Willis, the one who has shown up to collect a paycheck and really doesn’t care if the audience notices.

Surrogacy has resulted in a 99% drop in crime nationwide within ten years, one of many facts within the film’s universe that makes no sense whatsoever, but never mind. When the son of the billionaire creator of the surrogates (James Cromwell in a bit of dreadfully unoriginal casting following an identical role in “I, Robot”) is murdered, Greer is placed on the case. After Greer’s surrogate is destroyed by a group of anti-robot humans, he ventures into the world with his actual body, a dangerous scenario when your opponents lack a fear of harm.

Great science-fiction (indeed, cinema in general) doesn’t just raise an issue and then dismiss it, but links it to human truths and emotional consciousness. “Star Wars” wasn’t such a smash because of its effects alone, but because the storytelling enabled audiences to empathize with its heroes and villains. “Blade Runner” isn’t considered a classic because of its breathtaking design, but because its characters provoke a deeply poignant and enthralling sensation. We don’t remember films so much for what happens as we do how they made us feel.

“Surrogates” can make no such incredible claims with its emotional story arc, which sees Greer struggle with his wife (Rosamund Pike), who despite physically inhabiting the same apartment, is essentially estranged via their reliance on surrogacy. The potential for inventive and meaningful drama in this scenario would be obvious to even a hapless screenwriter, but director Jonathan Mostow and writers Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato present us with a half-hearted police procedural dotted with special effects and robot chase sequences. The plot presents us with stakes that involve the fate of the human race, but if the film had bothered to endear us to one man first, perhaps then we could care about everyone else. “Surrogates” is ultimately as disconnected from us as its characters are from each other.

2 out of 5


Damion009 said...

yes yes YES !!! awesome movie!!!!

Christian Toto said...

Wasted potential, yes. One wishes Willis used his clout to beef the screenplay up, but that might have been beyond the capabilities of any one actor.