The film Surrogates asks you believe that in the future most of mankind will choose to live vicariously through androids while they sit in the comfort of their homes. It’s an extreme concept, but given how today many live their lives in front of a computer, it may not be that far from reality. Like many sci-fi films that show a world that has different rules and standards than ours, the key to the Surrogates’ success may ride on the audience believing in that world. I can tell you right now that director Jonathan Mostow and writers Michael Ferris & John D. Brancato successfully bring this world to life.
The film is set in a future in which using Surrogates for everyday activities has become commonplace across the world. So commonplace in fact that crime has significantly dropped in the U.S. and there hasn’t been an actual murder in years…until now. FBI Agents Greer (Bruce Willis) and Peters (Radha Mitchell) are investigating the murder of a young couple outside a night couple. Their surrogates were attacked and “operators”, as they call them, were killed, which isn’t supposed to happen thanks to failsafe measures. At one point in the investigation, Greer is attacked by the same weapon, but disconnects early enough to only need to go to the hospital. Now he’s without a surrogate, as well as off the case. But we know Bruce, and he’s not going to stop until he finds the killer.
The fim represents the surrogate world perfectly in my mind. The surrogates are a bit slow and have a smooth, plastic-y look, and they interact exactly like you would think people who have nothing to worry about would. They see a car crash and either don’t bother looking or just look on like fire hydrant was spraying up water innocently. The operator-surrogate relationship is really interesting as well. Many operators look very different from the surrogates, with real hygiene not being an priority for most. Some only use their surrogates for work, others all the time.
This relationship is the core of the film’s message and unfolding plot. There are reservations in the US that are “No-Surrogate” zones, where people live organically without any machinery. These people, known as Dreads in the film, are led by a man known as The Prophet, played to perfection by Ving Rhames. Their philosophy is that surrogacy has made mankind weak and ungrateful for human life. Surrogacy, as we see with one of the main characters, is like an addiction. Willis himself deals with the perils of being the only human in a surrogate world throughout the film, and the dynamics are interesting to say the least.
That being said, the film has a rather methodical, somber tone. One could argue that it fits well with the message of the film and some of the character developments that occur, but I think most will see it as a bad thing. The action sequences were entertaining and fit the world nicely, but overall there just didn’t seem to be much urgency. We slowly get exposed to this world and the conspiracy that develops, but there’s no ticking clock until the climax.
I’ve glanced over some reviews, and I know the film’s getting bashed for being formulaic or a rip-off, but I don’t see it as either. There are some really nice twists and turns, and plenty of surprises. The idea of not living a real life has been dealt with before (see: The Matrix, Wall-E, or any virtual reality-based title), and the anti-technology, pro-biology message has been pushed more than I can count (not just in the before-mentioned film). What separates this film is how it shows the other side of the equation. These aren’t just dumb humans that the audience can say “just unplug!” and call it a day. We see why people need surrogates (or so they think) on an emotional and physical level.
Final Grade: B
Surrogates opens today in theaters nationwide. For more information on Surrogates and it’s viral campaign, see our Surrogates Page. What did you think of the film? Leave a comment below!