Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Boris Kodjoe, Ving Rhames, James Cromwell
John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris (Screenplay)
Brett Weldele, Robert Venditti (Graphic Novel)
I was almost wrong about "Surrogates."
The ludicrous toupe, wiggy thing seen on Bruce Willis in the relentlessly corny "Surrogates" trailer was enough for me to include this sci-fi thriller on my list of "Top 10 Fall Films That Are Really Gonna' Suck."
I was ALMOST wrong on this one. In fact, I may actually be wrong.
I can't say I really recommend this techno mishmash, weakly photographed thriller featuring Bruce Willis as Greer, a detective in a world in which people live largely reclusive lives largely because surrogates can now live everything for them...eliminating life's risk and tribulations as real human beings are tucked away while the surrogates live out daily life.
This surrogate world is said to be impenetrable and safe until, that is, a murder happens and Greer and his partner (Radha Mitchell) are left to investigate it while Greer deals with the inevitable dramas back at home with a depressed wife (Rosamund Pike) and the death of his son.
Of course, the investigation leads to a battle of technology vs. humanity, technology represented by a supreme baddie (James Cromwell) and a human rebel activist known as The Prophet (Ving Rhames, reuniting with Willis for the first time since "Pulp Fiction").
Does anyone else see where this is going?
There's a fair chance that those who enjoy the incorporation of action scenes into their sci-fi thrillers will enjoy "Surrogates" on a far greater level than did I, an admittedly over-exposed film critic who leans towards the importance of character development, dialogue and coherence when the script actually calls for it.
"Surrogates" should be coherent, but it's not. Director Jonathan Mostow, working off the script by Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato, too often defers to the attention-getter, a decent action scene that replaces anything resembling plot development. Rather than filling in the gaps to make "Surrogates" coherent, Mostow simply tosses in a variety of car chases, explosions and shoot 'em ups. Admittedly, Mostow is a gifted director and his car chases, explosions and shoot 'em ups are infinitely watchable. For this writer, however, they make the film feel uneven, disjointed and only occasionally involving.
Willis, once he ditches that godawful toupe for the real world, is actually within his element with his usual everyman shtick largely effective in a film that never really requires much in the way of human emotion,a bit of an oddity given its preference for humanity over technology.
There's a sort of comic undertone to "Surrogates" that allows it to work on a far greater level than if Mostow had really tried to take this material seriously. Is it serious material? Absolutely, and the points about humanity and our desire for escapism and the easy life are certainly well presented. Yet, the characters in "Surrogates" actually appear as if they were birthed in a graphic novel (and they were).
The dreadlocked Prophet is quite often a hoot, while the wheelchair-bound Cromwell's baddie almost sparkles at times with the glint of technological potential.
Or is it his surrogate?
"Surrogates" is absolutely a film that requires the letting go of logic and a certain surrendering to the wonder of technological potential in the world. While the very premise itself struck this critic as ludicrous, there's no denying there are those who might embrace living vicariously through a surrogate while crumbling away within the safety of one's own home.
Okay, I'm lying. Actually, I can't imagine anyone embracing such a lifestyle let alone virtually everyone in society.
Better than expected but with far too many story holes and illogical sequences, "Surrogates" will be more pleasing to those who embrace its mix of technology with action, virtual reality with humanity. With well choreographed action sequences and Oliver Wood's anxiety inducing cinematography, "Surrogates" is an intriguing concept that very nearly works.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic