Starring: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike
Directed by: Jonathan Mostow (“Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”)
Written by: Michael Ferris (“Terminator Salvation”) and John Brancato (“Terminator Salvation”)
Screenwriters Michael Ferris and John Brancato have a monopoly on the man-versus-machine movie this year. While they might be remembered more for penning director McG’s much-anticipated albeit disappointing sequel “Terminator Salvation,” a more engaging entry into the writing duo’s science fiction filmography is the less-publicized “Surrogates” starring Bruce Willis.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow, who’s had a hand in the “Terminator” franchise himself with the silly third installment “Rise of the Machines” in 2003, “Surrogates” finds itself in an awkward spot in September. Not big enough to play among the blockbusters of the summer and easily removed from the Oscar bait of the fall, “Surrogates” might be able to survive if enough people give it a chance to be exactly what moviegoers probably need during this transitional period: a quick flick that’s fairly satisfying.
In “Surrogates,” 98 percent of the world is run by humanlike robots known as surrogates. Basically, any human “operator” who owns one of these pristine, synthetic bodies can virtually link up to it and live out their entire life in the comfort of their own home. No longer does anyone have to go to work, run errands, or risk their lives walking out the front door. A surrogate will take care of it all.
Willis stars as Greer, an FBI agent, who along with his partner Peters (Radha Mitchell) are investigating the mysterious death of a young “operator” who happens to be the son of surrogate creator Canter (James Cromwell). Although it was thought to be impossible, someone has found a way to kill human operators by destroying their surrogates.
One person who would love to get his hands on whatever is overloading the “surries” is the Prophet (Ving Rhames), a human resistance leader whose hundreds of followers cling to his every word about the depressing dehumanization of society. Greer, too, is witnessing his own world slowly but surely distancing itself from reality. Unable to face the death of their son, Greer’s wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike) hides away in her virtual existence where she doesn’t have to confront those memories.
Much of “Surrogates” is standard sci-fi fare that never gets too technical or tries to deemphasize a plot that sometimes moves like the cogs of a rickety clock. It keeps a tolerable pace, but skips a few important beats along the way. Still, as illogical as much of it is, “Surrogates” is better throw-away-cinema than “Gamer” of earlier this month. If you were able to dodge that bullet and still need a sci-fi fix, you could do a lot worse than this.