Taking the projection of oneself one step further in the digital realm than the abysmal online world of Second Life does, Surrogates imagines a world where true 3D representations move about in the world in place of the living and breathing. Why risk actually interacting with others when one can sit comfortably at the house and get fat? Oh, the wonders of technology!
But just like all science fiction films — especially those involving robots living among or replacing humans — something goes horribly wrong. The beauty of the robotic surrogates is when one is harmed or broken, the damage does not transfer to the human host it is representing. Want the thrill of skydiving without having to deal with the inherent risks? Have your surrogate do it; if it is smashed just order another one from corporate behemoth, Virtual Self Industries (VSI for short).
Unexpectedly and very alarmingly though, two surrogates are destroyed and their human counterparts die too. FBI agents Thomas Greer (Bruce Willis) and Jennifer Peters (Radha Mitchell) are called to action to investigate. The trail leads back to the obvious culprits — the big evil corporation responsible for the technology (one of the dead was the son of the founder Canter (James Cromwell)) and the rag tag groups of humans who refuse to embrace the new world order led by the Prophet (Ving Rhames).
The answer isn’t all that important (since it is rather obvious) as is how director Jonathan Mostow gets us there. He does an admirable job trying to keep Surrogates from falling into the netherworld of all-too unbelievable crap. The plot derived from a graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele is, unfortunately, as thin as Kate Moss at her finest. There are plenty of unexplained scenarios that could use some serious explanations, but Mostow manages to sidestep them in such a way that the whole of the movie isn’t affected too much. He could have, however, probably done without the under served side story involving Greer’s wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike) though.
For those who are more interested in seeing sci-fi action and/or whether Bruce Willis still has the chops to play an action hero rather then whether or not the premise put forth actually makes sense, you won’t be overly disappointed. The film has more car chases and associated car crashes than I can count on my fingers and toes (some being much better than others) with one involving a helicopter that is especially gripping. This particular crash is a perfect segue to Willis — you see the crash involves his bizarre looking, blonde coiffed surrogate. Its destruction causes his character to come out of his self-imposed prison and in turn really shines the light on the “real” and the “unreal” at the core of the movie. No, Willis isn’t quite the powerhouse he once was, nor does his character require him to be one, but he still does a more than adequate job at carrying the movie on his shoulders.
So while Surrogates wasn’t exactly a groundbreaker in effects or premise or anything else for that matter, I still found myself entertained by what it had to offer. Even with its shortcomings, it is one of the better science fiction films of the year.