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Starring:Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames

Director:Jonathan Mostow

Writer(s):Michael Ferris, John D. Brancato

Cinematography: Oliver Wood

Original Score: Richard Marvin

Running Time:104 Mins.

Surrogateslooks, on the surface at least, so pedestrian that you can’t help but wonder why an actor of Willis’ calibre and star wattage was drawn to it, a run of the mill sci-fi actioner that not so much looks like we have seen it all before than the actual love child of Will Smith starrer I. Robot and the daddy of post-modern sci-fi, Blade Runner. So to say expectations were low is really quite an accurate description. Lest I was surprised once again and low expectations trumped as Surrogateswas actually quite a nice surprise, not entirely devoid of some ambiguity upon its close avoiding that all to commonplace “happy ending” (good sci-fi should ALWAYS leave you wandering!).

Willis is a police officer (natch) in the future, 14 years to be precise, and in this future the majority of the population have become essentially 24/7 couch potato’s, spending all of their active time in what is refered to as a stem chair, though I could have sworn it sounded like “stim” chair, from this chair they control their surrogate, a plastic “other” version of themselves, most choose versions that look like they do albeit with supposed improvements, i.e. Willis wears a dreadful wig and looks vastly younger, while Radha Mitchell’s character is bruised and battered in human form (seemingly for no discernable reason, as it is never explained) yet bottle blonde perfection in surrogate form.

Word is that surrogacy has hugely decreased crime rates by 90% (so an excellent credit sequence informs us) with the ability to be murdered via surrogate impossible, until that is someone does die whilst “plugged in”. Willis investigates whilst dealing with the desire to spend time with his actual wife, rather than her surrogate, and properly grieve the loss of his dead son…there are corrupt companies (I, Robot), a human resistance (Children of Men) and questions of identity (Blade Runner)…and a bald Bruce Willis (urm…Die Hard 4.0…).

This mish-mash of ideas, whilst not inherently original, does add up to a pretty good sum of its parts, Willis invests himself well in the material and is given much more to do than run around killing people, in fact the film is being largely mis-sold as an action film, when there is nary little action within. A chase scene early on that sees the demise of Willis’ surrogate is good but not good enough to be sold as THE set piece in a supposed action film, however the 90% of the film that isn’t action is handled with panache by Mostow, who guided the under-rated Terminator 3in a passable direction, and manages to coax an emotional performance from the confused character of Willis, the support however doesn’t fare quite as well and Ving Rhames feels hugely miscast as the leader of the human resistance, The Prophet, Mitchell and Pike are adequate but given very little to work with leaving it to Willis to keep the thesping end of the action interesting.

As the intriguing premise raises questions about identity and delves much deeper into the psychology about the ideas of perfection and the uses of “avatars” which seem to be becoming more prevalent day by day in our society you will be left pondering such quandaries throughout, and some time after. Sadly though the film ends with a mixed and somewhat cliched finale, as predictable equilibrium is somewhat restored it is left slightly ambiguous as not to have too happy an ending but the lead up in the last 15 minutes is so “seen it all before” that much of the impact is sadly lost, kudos for not feel the need to have an all action blow everything up ending but it needed to move away from I, Robot comparisons and the use of James Cromwell only fuelled them further.

VERDICT

Surrogatesskates a thin line of cliche and thoughtful sci-fi, thankfully more cerebral than expected and with a great emotive performance from Willis who is here more acting than action-man, despite succumbing to seen-it-all-before on its tail end there is more than enough here to make Surrogates worth watching.

grade-c

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