The writers of “Terminator 3” and “Terminator Salvation” (Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato) can’t seem to get away from those androids of the future. This time, though, the robots have no artificial intelligence of their own. Instead, the plot of “Surrogates” is a much more intellectual film with an eerily plausible premise.
But the movie still tells the tale of humanity and cybernetics gone wrong. In this universe, the majority of mankind has given in to their vanity by living through a surrogate: a robot that is a better reflection of themselves (or how they want to be seen) through which they experience the world via neural interaction. As a result, most humans never even leave the house any more, because there’s no need for them to do so.
It is in this nearly perfect world that Greer (Bruce Willis, “Live Free or Die Hard”), a police detective, stumbles upon a case where a couple of surrogates have been destroyed. It’s impossible for surrogates to be intentionally hurt (that’s part of their appeal) and murder is practically unheard of in this future that is devoid of crime because everyone can do anything they want via their surrogates without any repercussions. Everyone else is ready to write the case off as an accident, but Greer is convinced that it’s more than that. The mystery he pursues proceeds to unravel a very tangled web.
There is no argument that the writing is good enough to generate water cooler conversations. In fact, the script has plenty of action and unexpected twists. Nevertheless something about the movie fails to make it remarkable, despite the great makeup work that makes the actors look creepily synthetic as their surrogate counterparts. One can only leave that blame at the feet of the director. While this thriller has noirish aspirations via the writing, it fails to deliver the genre visually.
Director Jonathan Mostow (“Terminator 3”) takes an excellent dark thriller with a disenchanted protagonist and dumbs it down with bright scenes shot in the peak of daylight. He shows very little knowledge of the film noir genre, and instead focuses on producing the equivalent of cinematic candy.
What a shame the acting talents of Willis had to be wasted on such a mediocre product. What could have been an excellent addition to his resume, instead turns out to be just another movie to his credit without any distinction from his previous work.
“Surrogates” is diverting for those looking to kill some time, but this is no “L.A. Confidential.” Ignore some of the plot holes, enjoy the chase scenes, but don’t look for anything that will stand the test of time.