Directed by: Jonathan Mostow
Premise: In the near future, human beings stay at home, safe in a virtual reality chair, and interact with other people and the outside world through life-like machines that are usually replicas of their own bodies. A police detective (Bruce Willis) investigates a crime in which a new weapon used against a surrogate machine kills the operator.
What Works: Surrogates has one of the most interesting scenarios seen in a science fiction film in a very long time. The metaphor of the story is extremely strong and the film takes seriously the implications of using technology to remove ourselves from daily life and the ways in which technology impacts our identity, the way we conceive of ourselves and each other, and what it means to be human.
What Doesn’t: Unfortunately, the storyline of Surrogates is not as interesting as its philosophical ideas. The film begins as a mystery, as the son of the creator of surrogate technology is murdered, but this gets cast aside very quickly as the story mutates into a conspiracy plot. There are a lot of glaring holes or incomplete explanations; it’s unclear why the murder took place and how the corruption of business and government links to the mystery. A lot of the detective work follows predictable patterns that were old hat when Mickey Spillane was writing them, and a lot of the action sequences, sparing as they are, seem to be there for their own sake rather than raising the tension or paying off with a clue or a plot point.
Bottom Line: Surrogates has good intentions and smart ideas, but the film falls short in its storytelling. It strives for the quality and depth of Blade Runner or Metropolis but this film ultimately has more in common with I, Robot.
Episode: #258 (October 4, 2009)