Here’s the thing with these high-concept science fiction movies: you simply have to do them right. The execution must be just as good as the premise. Sadly, what we have here is an excellent premise and a mediocre execution. Surrogates is a movie offering a realistic and thought-provoking vision of the near future. It’s a world where everyone is using androids to do their daily tasks while they stay safe at home. We will be following an FBI agent investigating a series of mysterious murders. So, basically, this is a variation on the 2004 I, Robot movie based on Isaac Asimov’s short stories.
Blade Runner also comes to mind although that’s a far darker and much better movie. Surrogates is actually based on a graphic novel of the same name by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele. Perhaps this is the reason why all the futuristic stuff looks so good. Here’s a fun fact, during the opening sequence you’ll see two almost identical men looking at each other. One of them is an android and the other one is a real human being. The footage is real and it features Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University and his android Geminoid. And since the story in Surrogates is taking place in 2017 we won’t have to wait long.
The first thing you’re going to notice about the movie is the sheer amount of Dutch angles. These are the shots when the camera is tilted to convey imminent danger or tension. And it’s not like we have a noob director as Jonathan Mostow has a career spanning almost thirty years. He’s also the guy behind one of my favorite nineties movies, Breakdown. I don’t think that Bruce Willis was the right choice for the lead role. He seemed disinterested and quite low-energy. Luckily, Radha Mitchell was there to pick up the slack. And it was funny to see always bald Ving Rhames with dreadlocks.
The one thing that bothered me throughout my second viewing of the movie was the lack of any class struggle. We have all the ingredients to send a potent message about the future we’re slowly but surely heading to. A future where the rich will be able to afford androids and we, poor working people, will have to sacrifice our skin, flesh, and bones just to make a living. They make out the rebels to be fanatics and yet they seem to be forgetting the economics part of this equation. However, that’s just me yapping on about late-stage capitalism, I’m sure you’re used to this by now.
Featuring an excellent premise, great special effects, and decent pacing, Surrogates is a good movie. Add to this a short running time of just 85 minutes and you got yourself a solid science fiction movie. Sure, it’s got its flaws but I think that the positives outweigh the negatives. If this is what’s going to make the general population think about our future then I’m all for it. The only thing I don’t get is all the slim humans in their pods. Wall-E offers a much more realistic image of what would happen if we spent all day and night in those pods.
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Writers: Michael Ferris, John Brancato, Robert Venditti
Cast: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Ving Rhames, James Cromwell
Fun Facts: The weapon everybody is after looks like a portable ozone generator modified to look like a gun.