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Surrogates A Great Idea, But Little Else

Directed by Jonathan Mostow
Written by Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato from the graphic novel by Robert Vendilli and Brett Weldele
Touchstone, 2009

It’s hard to take a movie seriously when it immediately reminds you of so many other movies (even from this year) that despite a fairly original premise, it just seems like a huge rehash.  It’s even worse when you think of ideas that could be great in a movie like this but it’s not interested in doing anything remotely cool at all.  First things first: movies I was reminded of from this year: Gamer, which came out this month and covered the idea of “being someone else” from the comfort of home; District 9, which came out last month and covered the idea of people not being accepting of anything not natural to Earth and wanting to wipe them out; Total Recall, which of course covered that whole “be someone else” thing years ago; and the other Philip K Dick adaptation Blade Runner, with the idea of “replicants,” aka cyborgs.

Only thing is…with these “surrogates” the machines that replace us in every day life, there is absolutely no mystery as to whether someone is a surrogate or not.  Pretty much everyone sits at home controlling their machine and live the lives that they want without danger.  Bruce Willis plays a cop named Greer, and what kind of Bruce Willis movie would this be if he weren’t having marital troubles?  This time the wife is Maggie (the always stunning China-doll Rosamund Pike), who refuses to let Greer see her true self, and even uses her surrogate to interact with his true self.  He badly wants to see her, but of course there’s a lot of pain because they lost their son in a car accident, and lots of grief and guilt play their usual melodramatic part.  Greer teams up with his partner Peters (another stunner, Radha Mitchell) to figure out who is using a weapon that not only kills surrogates, but the people attached to them.  The case has media attention also because the creator of surrogates, Canter, (James Cromwell) has a son who has been killed.

The immediate suspects would be a commune of humans who denounce surrogates, led by a man known as The Prophet (Ving Rhames).  Greer loses his surrogate when he guides it into restricted air space with a helicopter and is shot down by a man (Jack Noseworthy, who was in Mostow’s U-571 and Breakdown) carrying the surrogate-killing weapon.  Greer is kicked off the case for the stunt, so he starts going out into the world for the first time in many years without his surrogate, and goes rogue of course.

You can practically guess every single thing that happens in this movie before it happens.  When you first see The Prophet, you can probably guess what his deal is.  You might know who the bad guy is during the opening credits, as I had managed to guess.  Ultimately, that doesn’t matter because the movie has no suspense and nothing that develops the idea of surrogates further.  The things I would have liked to be guessing were things the movie didn’t want to bother with, or even think about.  It’s a lazy movie.

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