THE key to enjoying science fiction thriller Surrogates is accepting its premise of robotic personal avatars that allow plugged-in individuals to stay at home and avoid the risk of crime, accident or disease that comes with venturing outside.
What is high-concept to some may be naggingly far-fetched to others, and while the film’s technological advances may be quite believable, the idea that 99 per cent of the population would choose to hole up in their homes and let robots lead their lives for them is much tougher to swallow.
That aside, the concept does work quite well as a metaphor for the paranoia and moral hysteria that afflicts some people in the modern age– just listen to talkback radio or read a newspaper letters column for a taste of the “too scared to leave the house” mindset that is often driven by skewed media reports.
Despite the bold concept, the film unfolds in rather routine modern action/thriller/mystery fashion, with plot twists that shouldn’t be particularly surprising for the regular filmgoer.
Dependable and charismatic Bruce Willis stars as Greer, a detective investigating the mysterious deaths of surrogate operators following the use of an unknown weapon on the surrogates themselves.
Like most people, Greer uses a surrogate resembling a younger and fitter version of himself for day-to-day activities, including his job.
One of the film’s cleverest tricks is the difference in appearance between the surrogates and their less well-preserved human operators, particularly Greer’s, which looks like it might have stepped off the set of Moonlighting.
When Greer’s surrogate is destroyed while trying to apprehend a human suspect and the police department delays providing a replacement, Greer is forced to actually go out in the flesh, which is frightening for himself and concerning for his wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike) and colleagues.
Australian actor Radha Mitchell does a good job as Greer’s partner Peters, in surrogate form and briefly as the operator.
Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3) directs with a dynamic Hollywood style that, while nothing new, works particularly well during the action scenes.
Can we pause for a moment and pay tribute to the Brutalist architectural style that has provided readymade futuristic backdrops to filmmakers for almost 50 years?
Unsightly imposing grey buildings, we salute you for your contribution to the genre.
Directed by: Jonathan Mostow
Starring: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell
Rating: Three stars