Director - Jonathan Mostow
Release date – September 25, 2009
Runtime – 88 min; PG-13
Bruce Willis – Tom Greer
Ving Rhames – The Prophet
Radha Mitchell – Peters
The definition of a surrogate is “One that takes the place of another; a substitute.” I wish I could have had my own surrogate attend the viewing of Surrogates I sat through, and maybe report back to me.
Bruce Willis is agent Tom Greer, a man we initially come to know as a chiseled chin, perfect skin and flowing, parted hair attempt at a modern day god of a detective, but who we quickly come to realize is just an average couch potato at home, balding and out of shape. Why the dichotomy? Oh the humanity! We initially meet Greer’s surrogate, a robot-esque humanoid which roams the real world while it’s’ owner sits safely at home connected via wires which allow sensation and a ‘real world feel’ without any of the complications.
The idea is intriguing (though not new) and I suppose a good story is somewhere to be found, but it is not here. Too much of this film is formulaic (for no reason!) and too much of it is harshly edited to keep us un-nauseated. Why the director (Jonathan Mostow – of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines fame) chose to gloss over all the important and potentially exciting aspects of a world where people sit at home and control themselves through surrogate robots is beyond me. Instead, what we end up with is a conventional story that quickly deteriorates into an obvious who-dunnit detective piece. If you don’t figure the entire story out by the half way point you either A: Fell asleep; B: Went to get popcorn and decided not to go back; or C: you were absurdly high.
The gist of the film is as follows: In a world where 98% of the population uses a surrogate to live life, and 2% resist this new technology, there is little crime and no murder, since the surrogate is a robot and the controller cannot be harmed in real life if the surrogate goes splat – or so it always was, until a strange killing device is employed and all hell breaks loose. Tell me again why there are so many surrogate cops in this movie when most crimes are no longer happening? No worries, it’s just one of a thousand questions I don’t really want an answer to from this film.
Without giving away any of the awful details, Greer is dismissed by his superior for improper conduct (shocking, this has never happened in a cop movie before) and he goes rogue to find out information. This is some serious writing folks. The end is just what it always was going to be, and the questions you think you want answered about what you just watched will not be answered. I mean, if your surrogates have sexual intercourse…well… you know, all those crazy questions.
If you look at the cast credits you’ll notice Ving Rhames is credited as The Prophet. The Prophet. Ving Rhames. If that doesn’t just scream to you that his role will be nothing more than a stereotype of so many movies with a fringe society that threatens the evil-doers nothing will. Any of the intriguing characters in this story are so quickly dismissed in depth that it is difficult to understand why they were even cast. With all that said, the film is not as bad as I thought it would be, and at just 88 minutes it isn’t pretending to be more than it is, which has to count for something.