Thursday, January 28, 2010


Surrogates is the other movie this season where avatars play a huge role. It takes you a few minutes to get the gist of what's going on, but as soon as you see a 60's-something Bruce Willis with smooth skin and blond bangs, you'll say, "Whoa!" just like I did.

As it turns out, what we were seeing is Bruce's avatar, who happens to be a detective. The five-o'clock-shadowed, truly 60-year-old Bruce is really at home, and hasn't stepped out of his home for years. Surrogates are used by 98% of the population -- you feel the pleasure and excitement they feel, but without the pain or flesh degradation. Drugs are definitely an option, as you will feel the highs but not the lows. Bungie jumping, detective work, race car driving. One wonders why anyone would be an accountant in this world, and the world needs accountants.

Tom Greer (Willis) and his partner Peters (Radha Mitchell) are investigating a murder of a surrogate and the actual body of a college kid, when a stranger's blast from a weird weapon goes right through the surrogate's eyes and kills them both. This leads Greer, the human, to venture into one of the many human-only territories to investigate the murder.

It's a rather interesting idea, especially when human hosts are forced to come out of hiding and into the open air when their surrogates are massively shut down. And it's a double whammy, almost a horror show, when we see some of these hosts, played by those actors who also play their own surrogates. Some of the best science fiction is created when you change just one little thing in the world, and let human reaction take over. Relationships are now based on the most superficial things. Everyone is beautiful and everyone is shallow, and, hey, plastic. What has happened to Tom's and his wife's (played by Rosamund Pike) marriage seems inevitable.

Perhaps if the plot were that shallow we could figure out what's really going on. But it's circuitous, and puzzling, and in the end, despite Willis' and Pike's best, the whole movie falls rather flat. I liked the concept, but it really didn't go anywhere, and in the end, we weren't led to feel anything about our protagonists. It's sometimes shocking, but rarely engaging.

I am torn between just saying Thumb's down because the movie shows an interesting idea in an uninvolving way. Still, the chase scenes are amazing, and some of the surprises pay off, not spectacularly, but enough to keep you interested at a minimal level.

Thumb's up, but you've been warned.


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