Movie review: Surrogates

surrogates“Surrogates” is one of those cautionary tales about the dangers of technology, but it’s so earnest and bland that it saps all the fun out of a potentially entertaining movie. It brings nothing new to the table – it could have been made in 1994 for what statements it makes about modern gadgetry.

Coming on the heels of the far superior “Gamer,” a film with a similar plotline, “Surrogates” can’t hide its seams as a major-studio production that has probably been focus-grouped to death.

In the near future, humans have given up their lives and put them in the hands of robot doppelgangers who look, talk and act better than the real thing. These surrogates allow people not only to live out thier workaday lives but their wildest fantasies.

But when two surrogates, and their human hosts, are found murdered, it opens up an entirely new threat, especially in the hands of the anti-surrogates movement led by the verbose Prophet (Ving Rhames).

The cop assigned to the case is Tom Greer (Bruce Willis), who may have a beautiful head of hair and a shiny face in his surrogate life, but really is the same ol’ grizzled, haunted Cop Dealing With Tragedy that we’ve seen many times before. It’s nice to know that even in the future, some cliches remain the same.

Tom figures out that there’s a weapon in play that allows the user to wipe out the surrogate and their host, and when his surrogate is destroyed, he has to go out in the real world as himself for the first time in years to figure out how to stop what’s going on.

With the help of his partner (Radha Mitchell), Tom eventually tracks down the reclusive creator of the surrogate program (James Cromwell), who informs him that the military has been developing a super weapon with the capability to short out surrogate and host.

Meanwhile, Tom is dealing with strife at home, as his emotionally wrecked wife (Rosamund Pike) has retreated into the relative safety of her surrogate. Far too much time is spent with this subplot; frankly, I would rather have Tom hook up with his partner than drearily try to reconcile with his wife.

In the end, the film winds up relying on the old double cross plot – more evidence that this film doesn’t really have much to say other than throwing some special effects at us.

Bruce Willis is one of my favorite actors, but here he doesn’t get to do much other than glower and gimp around. He doesn’t even get to do the trademark Willis gun shooting! Other than Willis, everyone else turns in perfunctory performances – even Mitchell, an actress I normally like, is hamstrung by playing a robot for 3/4 of the movie.

Touchstone apparently spent $80 million on this, and I just don’t see it. The robot effects are OK, but not worth that much. The best thing I can say is that it was only 88 minutes long, faint praise for sure.

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~ by Elliott on October 10, 2009.

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