Surrogates paints a picture of a perfect world undisturbed by crime, communicable diseases, discrimination. In this smug world you don’t have to obsess over your looks or extra pounds. You don’t have to be worried that you might wake up with a zit on your nose the day you have scheduled a job interview or date. Or that you’ll ever experience the unwanted consequences of the aforementioned date.

Review by SAndman
December 23, 2009

Director: Jonathan Mostow

graphic novel: Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele
screenplay: Michael Ferris and John Brancato

Bruce Willis as Tom Greer
Rosamund Pike as Maggie Greer
Radha Mitchell as Peters
James Cromwell as Older Canter
Ving Rhames as The Prophet

Released: 2009


VSI’s AdvertisementYou can live your life without limitations. And become anyone you want to be. From the comfort and safety of your own home.

Sometime in 21st century the military developed machines – automated units controlled by human operators – to replace live soldiers on battlefields. VSI,the world’s leading manufacturer of surrogates and the father of surrogacy Dr. Lionel Canter, soon began producing units for daily use, which quickly caught on and lead to a point where 98 percent of human population owned a surrogate.

This gave rise to an unprecedented reduction in crime as the machines soon replaced humans in daily interactions. Naturally, not everybody was happy with this trend and the few malcontents, or the so-called dreads (Get it? Those who dread the machines – dreads.) rallied around a man named Zair Powel, aka the Prophet, and moved into reservations, which became no-machine zones with rundown tenements, very strict rules and generally mob mentality.

After two surrogates have been killed in the back of a night club the seasoned FBI Agent Greer and his dashing sidekick Peters are sent in to check out the scene of crime. It doesn’t take Greer long to realize that what at first looked like a robbery was actually a murder.

Even stranger, it turns out that nobody as yet filed a report, let alone that the machines were completely destroyed – which goes against the grain since the surrogates are supposed to be near indestructible! Tracking down the owners of the machines, they find out that both operators have been killed as a consequence of the assault on their surrogates – as yet unprecedented incident. Moreover, it turns out that one of the operators was none other than Jarod Canter, the son of Dr. Lionel Canter, the creator of surrogacy.

What happens next – as you can probably predict – is an hour-odd long hunt for leads, motives and villains. Finally after many twists and turns (take this as a mere figure of speech, actually the movie is rather linear, shall I say, threadbare, in terms of plot), the brave detectives stumble upon the solution of the mystery. Which is…

  • a) surrogates have collectively decided to turn on their operators, developed a secret weapon to sever the link with the despised humanity, but something went wrong in the process;
  • b) dreads have decided they have had enough and figured out a way to get back at the machines, loss to human lives notwithstanding;
  • c) third and hitherto unknown agent will turn up in the course of the movie and reveal sinister machinations involving the demise of machines and their handlers alike;
  • d) nothing of the above.

Unfortunately, the movie takes the line of least resistance and instead of going the extra mile to create a gripping yarn, and shedding some fresh luster on the ageless idea of a machine-run civilization takes the easy way out and offers a rushed ending and platitudes on human relations, love, and whatever. Besides, it is really a shame the authors didn’t tap into the most obvious, stare-in-the-face, source of tension in the movie – the dichotomy between the human and non-human, man and machine. Instead, their creation revels in mediocrity and tops it off with the most predictable cop-out of a conclusion.

Perhaps those guys ran out of money, or simply ran out of ideas – a few instances in the movie show that they were aware of the untapped potential of the plot but for some reason they didn’t follow through! Basically, what you come away with is a slick thriller with some dystopian overtones, intriguing premise and, sadly, undeveloped plot.


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