By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin December 8, 2009 at 9:40AM
The way the folks at Disney are treating this film you’d think it was a turkey; it’s anything but. It may not be as hard-hitting or provocative as District 9, but it’s still science-fiction with some real thought behind it. The setting is the near future; people have grown lazy and now send sophisticated, good-looking robots out into the world to live their lives for them. As a result, crime has been virtually wiped out—until now. A renegade has gotten hold of a high-tech weapon that’s not only...
killing surrogates but their “controllers” as well. FBI agents Bruce Willis and Radha Mitchell—or rather, their surrogates—set out to solve the case, and immediately begin to discover skeletons in various closets. Ving Rhames plays a character called The Prophet, who leads a band of holdouts that reject the idea of surrogates, believing that people are surrendering their very humanity. Meanwhile, Willis has issues of his own at home with a wife (Rosamund Pike) who refuses to participate in their marriage, allowing her surrogate to take over completely.
The notion that technology has run ahead of morality is both timely and intriguing; that’s one reason Surrogates is so interesting. But the reason the movie works is that it’s primarily interested in offering a good story with plenty of action and visual effects; the message follows along. I’m not familiar with the graphic novel (by Robert Venditi and Brett Weldele) that inspired this movie, or how closely the screenplay (by Michael Ferris and John Brancato) adheres to it, but my curiosity has been piqued. There are some aspects of the plot that might have been explored more fully; with a bit more effort this could have been a great film, instead of merely a good one, but on the whole I think Surrogates accomplishes what it sets out to do. Bruce Willis does a fine job in what is essentially a dual role: as the surrogate, sporting a toupee and waxy skin, and as the world-weary man behind the avatar who wants to feel things first-hand again, even if that process causes him pain.
A friend recently told me that the trailer made this movie seem like a cross between Westworld and The Matrix. It isn’t. In fact, I’d call it an original; that’s why I enjoyed it.