Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.


Review by Patrick Hodges

I love “what if?” stories.  You know what I’m talking about:  stories that posit a possibility that at some point, human society went down a slightly different path than the one we’re currently on.  Such stories often take place in the not-too-distant future, and can often make for the best science-fiction films.  One of my favorite “what if” films in recent years was I, Robot a few years ago.  Surrogates isn’t quite as engaging a story, but it’s pretty darn good.   

In this society, most of humanity lives their lives in seclusion, never leaving the comfort of their homes; the simply lie down and plug themselves into a machine that telepathically allows them to work (and play) via a robotic double called a “surrogate”.  As a result, crime and disease are down to almost zero.  A society, safe.  Secure.  Doomed to fail.

The unthinkable happens:  two “operators” die when their surrogates are destroyed.  Called in to investigate is FBI agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis, playing a cop for the umpteenth time), who discovers that one of the victims was the son of the man who invented surrogacy in the first place (James Cromwell, playing, ironically, pretty much the exact same role he had in I, Robot).

Tom’s investigation eventually takes him to an inner-city neo-Luddite “humans only” society, led by a man called The Prophet (Ving Rhames, sharing the screen with Willis for the first time since Pulp Fiction), who preaches the truth that most of humanity seems to have forgotten:  that surrogacy will lead to our destruction.

The other thing about societies in “what if” stories is that they are often nasty reflections of our own; in this case, where addiction to drugs has been replaced by an addiction of a different kind.  Who wouldn’t want to live a life where they are young, good-looking and nearly indestructible?  At least, until it comes time to “unplug”, and you realize just how old, sick and enfeebled you now are.

Willis is very good at imbuing his characters with an innate sadness and emotion, and as he ventures beyond his threshold for the first time in years, it hits him like a sledge hammer just how disconnected he – and the rest of humanity – has become. 

The effects in Surrogates are good but not spectacular, and there are a few action sequences that are decent enough.  The acting was also decent, as the cast played their parts well without resorting to over-the-top antics like in Total Recall or the much more recent Gamer.  All in all, a good effort from director Jonathan Mostow, who I now consider forgiven for nearly deep-sixing the Terminator franchise with the godawful third chapter in that series, Rise of the Machines.   

4 / 5 stars

Comments (1):

  • Darren @ 01/17/2010 ( 7:13:03 AM )
    I accidentally bought the wrong book - different book entitled 'Surrogates' - and it was way better than this movie. Check it out - the author is Patrick?
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