movie film review | chris tookey


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  Surrogates Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
5.56 /10
Bruce Willis , Radha Mitchell, James Cromwell
Full Cast >

Directed by: Jonathan Mostow
Written by: John Brancato and Michael Ferris , based on the graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele

Released: 2009
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 89

Accept no substitutes.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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2009 has been the best year ever for intelligent science fiction. After Star Trek and District 9 comes Surrogates, a witty action thriller superbly directed by Jonathan Mostow, whose other movies have included the cult hit Breakdown and the underrated Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

The beauty of Surrogates lies not so much in the somewhat conventional thriller plot, though it is efficiently crafted and keeps the audience guessing up to the end.

Its great achievement is that it communicates a persuasive view of the future, where most people prefer to live as ďoperatorsĒ within the safety of their own homes and send idealised robotic surrogates of themselves out to face the dangers, diseases and myriad inconveniences of the real world.

Itís a humorous comment on the way avatars are used in computer games, often by people whose true appearance bears little relation to their surrogate selves. More seriously, it reflects the fear many people have of growing old and ugly: their squeaky-clean, ever-youthful surrogates are an effective metaphor for plastic surgery.

Bruce Willis (pictured right) and Radha Mitchell (left) play two youthful but suspiciously plastic-looking FBI surrogates investigating the mysterious shooting of two young, night-clubbing surrogates in an alley. The Feds find that not only the surrogates have been killed but also their operators, which should be a scientific impossibility. One victim is the surrogate son of the man who invented surrogates, the multi-billionaire Dr Lionel Canter (James Cromwell).

The film is a welcome reminder that not all movies based on graphic novels Ė this oneís by a talented first-timer called Robert Venditti - have to be violent, pretentious and dim-witted.

Itís also proof that Bruce Willis can be an excellent actor. Here, heís terrific in a dual role as a bald, world-weary operator and his younger-looking, ridiculously athletic, blond surrogate. The scene where he, as an operator, ventures anxiously out into the real world for the first time in years is a masterly piece of acting.

Equally impressive is one of our best young British actresses, Rosamund Pike, in the dual role of our heroís wife, an emotionally scarred, pill-popping, middle-aged woman, and her plasticized, ever-youthful avatar.

The movie is a timely satire on a world obsessed with appearance rather than soul, and a thoughtful examination of whether new technology is starting to chip away at our basic humanity.

It deserves to rank alongside I, Robot and Minority Report as a convincingly dystopic vision of the near future. Donít send a surrogate. See it yourself.

Incidentally, the film received much less complimentary reviews than it deserved. This is nothing new for science fiction movies of some distinction - movies such as Alien and Blade Runner were both similarly undervalued on release. Part of the blame attaches itself to Touchstone and Disney, which released the movie extremely late to critics, and in the UK at a very inconvenient time (a morning when normally critics would be writing their reviews). This protective stance may well have led some critics to expect this to be a turkey. In some cases, the film never overcame this perception. Itís a good example of a filmís publicists unknowingly sabotaging their own film.

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