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September 26, 2009

Surrogates - Movie Review

Not being a huge fan of Bruce Willis, I wasn't sure what we were going to get when we saw Surrogates last night.  The concept is a fascinating one, and the story is based on a graphic novel, but would it translate well to screen?  I'd have to say that it does for the most part, though a pedestrian plot and tepid acting brings it down a notch.

Basically, the movie takes place in the present day (all the better to save production costs on trying to make a near-future setting!), but it's a present day where people no longer go out.  A corporation called VSI, and it's former head, Dr. Canter, have created "surrogates," potentially perfect human beings that us normal folk can plug into and live our lives through them.  Within seven years, 99% of the population doesn't go out anymore, instead interacting with the world through these surrogates.  They allow people to do anything they want; if something happens to the surrogate, they'll just get another (which can, of course, be expensive).

Willis plays an FBI agent, Greer, who is assigned to investigate what first seems to be a case of vandalism (that's pretty much all it is if you destroy a surrogate) but which quickly leads to a case of murder when it's discovered that the real people who were controlling the two destroyed surrogates are also dead.  People aren't supposed to be reachable through their surrogates, so what happened?  And is it linked to an enclave of normal humans who have refused to even associate with surrogates, closed off in their own area of the city to lead their "back to nature, no technology" lives?  What Greer has come upon may be a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels.  Is anybody safe when even using a surrogate can result in your death?

First of all, the movie looks great.  It kind of has a plastic, washed-out look at times that goes perfect with the artificial nature of the lives that are being led.  They also did a wonderful job making the surrogates look "real, but plastic" and, the times we see the real people, they look horrible compared to their "perfect" surrogates.  Willis looks grizzled and greying, his wife looks like she hasn't been out of her room in seven years.  The cinematography is excellent all-around.

Unfortunately, given the plastic nature of the lives most people lead in this movie, the acting is either perfectly artificial or annoyingly flat, take your pick.  Willis is really good, of course, as the star of the movie and the one guy we see for "real" throughout the movie except at the very beginning.  He does a wonderful job with the agoraphobia and anxiety that being outside for the first time in years would give a person.  James Cromwell (the real Canter) and Ving Raimes (who plays the leader of the human-only movement, known creatively as "the Prophet") do good jobs with their turns too.  It's hilarious seeing Raimes in a bushy beard and dreadlocks, though.  The rest of the cast is ok, but as I said, it's hard to tell how much of it is questionable acting and how much is intentional plasticity.  Sadly, the worst offender is Greer's partner, Peters (Radha Mitchell), who is very flat most of the time.

Worse, the story is rather pedestrian and predictable, resorting to a bit of mindless action occasionally before going back to the interesting concept.  Not only that, but it resorts to one of the worst movie climax cliches as a character has to make a choice of which button to push.

At a brisk 88 minutes, Surrogates doesn't have time to really delve into what it means for a society to live like this, though we do see snippets.  Greer is starting to get tired of living mostly as a surrogate, asking his wife near the beginning of the movie (at least through her surrogate, since she never comes out of her room) to take a vacation with him (though she figures he's talking about both of their surrogates going somewhere).  Once Greer is walking around for real, we see some aspects of living life as a surrogate, the disdain that people show toward any real human being walking around.  But mostly, it's just a combination action thriller/conspiracy whodunnit.  Not that it's a bad thing, of course, but I would love a movie that didn't involve a mystery/conspiracy to explore how disconnected we are slowly becoming from real society as more and more of our presence is going online.

Ultimately, I did enjoy Surrogates and I'm glad we went to see it.  It's not the best movie in the world, but it's quick, has an interesting concept, and is very well-created.  It just could have been better, that's all.


  1. It will be better to watch Bruce wills movie than watching other horrific movie. Romance, comedy, horror all these things has included to this Surrogates movie and it will be markable point in the movie industry. Don’t you feel like that?


  2. Can't wait to see this movie. However, your spoiler post maybe chopped off a little excitement for me.... :)

  3. Hey Movie Blaster

    I'm not sure what spoiler you're talking about, but I hope you enjoy it!


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