Thursday, 8 October 2009

Film review: Surrogates

Surrogates was the choice of the week for Orange Wednesdays yesterday, the new sci-fi film directed by Jonathon Mostow (Terminator 3, 2003) and starring Bruce Willis (Die Hard 1-4, 1988-2007, Armageddon, 1998, Sin City, 2005). I personally love Bruce Willis' films (Die Hard is my favourite!) so wanted to give this film a go, even with a less than 50% rating from Rotten Tomatoes. It was worth going, but I don't know if I'd spend the full £6 to see it again and doubt it will be taking up space on my DVD shelf.

Surrogates is about a near future world in which people live in near-isolation: most of the population, of the USA at least, now use robotic substitutes (or surrogates) controlled by their mind to do their daily chores, even their leisure activities. This has lowered crime rates to almost 1% of what it was and almost eradicated disease as any damage surrogates receive doesn't affect it's users (or operators). The basic premise was good but unoriginal, it had big similarities with quite a few big science-fiction movies: 'plugging in' to a substitute body as in 'The Matrix', 1999; near human realistic robots (which can be damaged to reveal their robotic nature, see above) walking around the real world, doing human like things as in 'AI', 2001; robots taking responsibility for humans in a near-future earth as in 'I, Robot', 2004.

The story follows Willis' character, an FBI agent, Tom Greer, as he discovers a weapon which can not just destroy surrogates but also their operators. After pursuing the weapon into 'Dread territory' (where humans live opposed to surrogates, ie. 'No Robots Allowed') he is suspended and loses his surrogate: this causes him to continue to chase the deadly weapon in a world of surrogates as a human. This also causes him to struggle with being distant to his wife, who prefers to use a surrogate (see below) even when in the privacy of their own home, as they mourn the loss of their son. The audience were given a restricted knowledge of his wife, only seeing the surrogate for most of the film, giving a sense of distance which could relate to Willis' character, which I liked. Apart from that, the plot line wasn't particularly exciting and towards the end became very confusing and unnecessarily hard to follow.

An interesting question arises from the company that makes the surrogates, VSI (Virtual Self Industries, which has a cool viral website): its motto is 'It's life...but better'. Is life using a surrogate really better than real life? In a world using surrogates, what is life? I think it's good to think about these things and to learn, as Willis' character does, that there is more to life and not to take it or granted. I agreed with Mike (whose review of Surrogates you can also read here) that there could have been much more done to explore the idea of surrogates, but I think to go much further would mean the loss on the 12a certificate, if you know what I mean?

A good film with some interesting themes and a decent plot but it has been done before in a variety of different forms and got quite very confusing towards the end.

Surrogates = 6/10

ps. Check out the surrogate I made on the viral website mentioned before by clicking here.