Thursday, 12 November 2009
Directed by: Jonathon Mostow
Screenplay: John Brancato & Michael Ferris
Starring: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, James Cromwell & Ving Rhames
Unfairly overlooked at the tail end of the summer blockbuster rush, Surrogates is a good looking and sometimes thoughtful slice of science fiction starring the always reliable Bruce Willis. He plays reliable cop Agent Greer who like most of the human race lives his life through a surrogate: a good looking, healthy synthetic version of ones self which can never be hurt or catch disease. This means most of the human race is actually holed up in their homes, jacked into a computer, living their outside lives through their robot counterparts. Greer hasn’t actually seen his real wife in some time, as she refuses to be seen other than through her surrogate. Feeling disconnected from his wife and the world around him Greer and his partner Peters (Mitchell) must also cope with a surrogate killer on the loose who has a weapon that can not only disable the surrogate robots but kill the users jacked in at the other end.
Helmed by Jonathon Mostow who also made the robot themed (and not that bad) Terminator 3, Surrogates zips along at a fair clip but still finds time to infuse matters with character and emotion. Willis carries the film well, despite the silly wig his surrogate is given but actually spends most of time as his character's human version: an older, slower and slightly broken down version of his surrogate. When his surrogate is destroyed (in a barnstorming sequence that involves a crashing helicopter) he opts out of getting a new one, wanting to finish the investigation himself. This means Greer is thrust back into the real world for the first time in ages and has to cope with being slower, older and less beautiful than everyone around him. He also feels physical pain again and while Peters opts to still remain in her surrogate (we only get one brief glimpse of her human form) the two forge an unlikely human/robot alliance who team up to track down the killer. Greer also attempts to reconnect with his wife who is bed ridden, pill popping and morning the death of their son and thus will not go out into the real world unless she is in surrogate form (a very beautiful Rosamund Pike). Greer soon finds his life and the hunt for the killer crossing paths and the person who is shutting down all the surrogates may actually have a purpose and a want for society to return to how it used to be.
While Surrogates is mostly successful at merging sci-fi with big action, though there are really only two big set pieces (the helicopter/Greer surrogate set piece and the Peters/car chase near the end), it’s the more thoughtful sci-fi aspects that linger than the big set pieces. Willis may be doing his slightly damaged, older everyman bit but it works well within the context of the story and it’s refreshing that his partner, the female Peters, is actually the stronger of the two. Mitchell is great as always, looks amazing (as most of the cast do, the make up department doing a brilliant job of making the future look beautiful) and gives her character a bit of grit. The action scenes are handled well (Mostow knowing a thing or two about action after helming Breakdown, U571 and T3) and the film ends on a rather sombre almost thoughtful note highlighting that this kind of future may not be too far away, our reliance on technology and want for perfection already leading us there.
Nothing revolutionary but entertaining nonetheless and much better than expected. The Hollywood budget helps to make everything look good, the cast are equally impressive and overall Surrogates is just a decent, well made slice of sci-fi action.