Throwing us into a future where Bruce Willis has hair not nearly as awesome as his 80’s hair, Surrogates shows us a unique perspective based on the modern concern of people eventually becoming fully reclusive. This is certainly a well done aspect of the movie as it not only shows us just how insecure people have truly become with their own forms and the various downsides of such a thing, but it even makes us sympathize with such a thing. It’s difficult to see a positive in such a bleak future, and yet it’s there in the form of Willis’ character’s wife that was badly wounded, and uses her surrogate to feel welcome to the world once more. Furthermore, the movie doesn’t take it to the extreme point that everybody wants this lifestyle, and humans and surrogates co-exist in the world. The divide it has created is well handled, where there are derogatory slang terms applied to each, but never reaches a point that feels forced in order to get a blatant message across.
FBI agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) lives in a world where robotic surrogates stand in for people, protecting them from violence, contagion—and the appearance of aging. These picture perfect, real-life avatars—fit, good-looking, remotely controlled machines that assume their operator’s life role—enable the population to experience life vicariously from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Greer and his partner, Agent Peters (Radha Mitchell), are called in to probe the mysterious death of a college student, whose life ended when his surrogate was destroyed. When Greer’s surrogate is damaged in the investigation, he ventures out of his apartment for the first time in decades. In a world of masks, Greer must decide who is real and who can be trusted.
Aside from Bruce Willis, the casting isn’t all that memorable, aside from James Cromwell that eventually is revealed to be a part annoyingly similar to his role in I, Robot. While it may sound like performances lacking in memorable impressions would be immediately bad, it also has to be noted that it means I don’t recall any truly disappointing performances. The movie dominantly focuses on Willis and his character’s adaptation throughout the various twists of the story, as well the world in which he lives, so it is a bit difficult to let any of the other characters shine. Radha Mitchell and Rosamund Pike both gave enjoyable – but not really memorable, as said – performances as Willis’ detective partner, and his wife respectively.
All of that said, I have to admit that I didn’t really care for the movie. Even though there are several points in which the movie excels (perspective of the future), or at least medially delivers (supporting cast), the story itself and the execution of telling it fail to properly deliver. The story itself delves into the usual conspiracy bit that has become far too clichéd with future world settings, and really felt like it joined too much with the paper-thin logic presented. Admittedly, I’m not entirely sure that it’s the plot that truly failed to deliver as I was frequently distracted throughout the movie with musical cues that neither fit the atmosphere of the scene, nor add anything to it. The majority of musical cues felt garish and poorly chosen which create, as I said, a distraction.
Even though it failed to leave all that great of an impression on me with its execution, this movie is definitely Recommended for a rental.
It’s rather funny—when this title arrived I thought “wow this is just now hitting Blu-ray?” Then I realized it only came out in September and that it’s actually only been four months. That’s the kind of impression the film left on me—though I’d watched it only four months prior, it seemed like it’d been much longer. There are several explanations for that, as it seemed like a mixture of other sci-fi outings so none of it seemed too fresh or original. But I have to hand it to Disney for sprucing this package up—full foil reflection and an embossed slipcover will make Willis’s shiny cap jump off the shelves. It’s reminiscent of any other number of action films, but at the same time the presentation of the packaging and all that looks sharp. Underneath the slipcover is the same art and a series of inserts for the movie. Shockingly enough…there’s no digital copy.
Video arrives in the form of an AVC encoded 1080p transfer with spectacular results. It’s a modern film, granted, but there’s a plethora of techy little do-dads that are on screen at any given time and while the surrogates look appropriately creepy at times, everything looks sharp and clean. The transfer kind of throws you off a bit when you notice the lack of detail on some of the surrogates faces – almost too clean – but that’s just the way the film was made. While the plot is predictable, the visuals keep you into the film and this Blu-ray transfer certainly helps.
Also a boon for ones enjoyment of this film is the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. It’s loud and proud and while the film isn’t non-stop action, there’s still plenty of environmental surround effects and LFE output to amp up ones enjoyment of this production. It’s not a very diverse track, but the dialogue is crystal clear coming out of the front channels and everything about the mix just flat-out works.
Extras are actually quite plentiful for, again, what was essentially an underwhelming film. They really do help you enjoy the film a great deal more, so definitely check them out if you enjoyed this sci-fi outing at all:
• Commentary with director Jonathan Mostow
• “I Will Not Bow” Music Video by Breaking Benjamin
• A More Perfect You: The Science of Surrogates — The world of surrogates is not far away! Mind controlled robotics is already in use in today. This featurette explores the realities of this technology and offers an in-depth look into the creation of the superhuman versions of the cast created for this film.
• Breaking the Frame: A Graphic Novel Comes to Life — A visual exploration of the evolution of Surrogates from graphic novel to major motion picture from the earliest designs and sketches. Pivotal sequences come to life in a dazzling 3-D animated experience.
• Four Deleted Scenes
The extras are limited and the deleted scenes are meh as usual, but the real gem here is the commentary with the director. This is the type of movie that, while not well-received by critics or the box office, just has a certain charm about it. It’s that certain “something” that Mostow talks about throughout the track and, again, anyone who enjoyed the film should check it out. The remaining extras are both worth checking out as well (the music video you can skip), as it takes a real-world look at where robotics are now and how the graphic novel became the film.
Overall a Recommended release if you’re a sci-fi or Bruce Willis fan.
Surrogates arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on January 26th.
Movie review by Andrew
Blu-ray review by Zach Demeter