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Friday, September 25, 2009

Review: SURROGATES


Just like when I saw I, Robot, when I left the theater I had one thought. Great sci-fi still exists.

It doesn't have to be hot women in tight suits fighting robots, it doesn't have to be a man who can teleport. It can be somewhat simple, and like all great sci-fi, if it uses the world it presents you with to make stinging social commentary, it can be a solid movie.



Such is the case with Jonathan Mostow's Surrogates. What happens when we as a society become further and further detached from reality? I used to joke that when my friends were not too energetic, they were robots. Only after a movie like this does that expression mean so much more.

Bruce Willis plays something he never has before; Tom Greer, a cop in a Willy Loman-esque state of mind. Oh wait, did I say he's never played this character before?

The year is 2025, and the entire earth is inhabited by robots called Surrogates, or "Surries" as their operators call them. They are great looking, perfectly athletic, and probably make their overweight, pasty operators who sit at home for 90 % of their life plugged into a machine to control them very happy. It's extremely rare to find a human out in the real world, rather than the comfort of their own home, except for the protesters. But what civilization doesn't have those?

Like I, Robot, everyone seems so convinced that Surrogates are great ideas, until it becomes increasingly clear to Tom that perhaps they aren't. After a series of events that leave him without a usable Surry, Greer finds himself experiencing the world for the first time in 16 years. He works deeper into the investigation that cost him his Surrogate in the first place, and bim bam boom, we have a sci-fi tale.

What's great about this movie is the time it spends creating characters we can care about. Somehow, in a world full of robots we can still find sympathy for them. Bruce Willis is great. Frankly, since he's played this character 900 times, it would be unacceptable for him not to be. Every time he lights up the screen, I remember why he is my favorite actor. None of his co-stars, including the great Ving Rhames and James Cromwell quite compare to him though. However, I did leave wondering if James Cromwell is actually King of the Robots in real life, since he always seems to play that guy.

Though it's not the most original score on earth, Richard Marvin does a great job creating themes and motifs to compliment the movie's pace. I really enjoyed this music, regardless of the fact that it sounded like recycled bits of Marco Beltrami's I, Robot and John Powell's Paycheck.

The real reason this is a good movie is because of the well constructed social commentary. Of course there are great visuals and great cinematography (Thumbs up to Allen Hall and Oliver Wood respectively), but these things are so commonplace in sci-fi today. What's not commonplace, however, is thoughtful dialogue and careful construction of scenes complimented by great acting. Surrogates has all this and then some.

Who knows, maybe we can make some Surries to model Jonathan Mostow. Let's get sci-fi back on the right track.

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