BluRay/DVD Reviews

SURROGATES

By • Jan 31st, 2010 •

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I never bought the central premise, that in the near future, technology would provide everyone the option of having robotic ‘surrogates’ to deal with the real world while we vegetated in our apartments, running them by being hooked up to wires and headsets. Yeah, we’d avoid contact with air-born germs. We’d avoid the frustrations of traffic (or would we…), but the concept worked better for me in WALL-E.

And the story feels somehow slight. Clocking in at 89 minutes, it’s a brisk ride, possibly trimmed to the bone for just the reason stated above – the willing suspension of disbelief had to be dealt with by editorial speed.

But all that said, Bruce Willis has always shown a gallant proclivity to tackle interesting projects (as have Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarznegger and Kurt Russell [with whom director Mostow worked on BREAKDOWN], but not a lot of other Hollywood superstars), and he delivers on this one. He’s an FBI agent, and his surrogate looks too trim…almost emaciated. Small. He is dwarfed by the complexity of this new world. When the real Tom Greer (Willis without the CGI overlay), is forced into the noir streets to investigate a baffling murder case, he bleeds easily, showing his all-too-human presence – a fish out of water in the surrogate-world-of-tomorrow. He’s the reason for taking the ride, and if you like him, it’s a lot of fun.
The screenwriters have explored the concept fully. There are lots of good insights, and good twists as the acts unfold. Oliver Wood’s cinematography is crisp, utilizing noirish oblique angles (and, according to the director on the commentary track, long unused lenses which give unusual depth to foreground and background objects), and Mostow’s direction is taut. Both of them keeping you aimed at the important details, not letting you get too lost in the minutia of the plot.

On the commentary track, Mostow discusses the flow of the film from scene to scene, always telling us if it’s a set or a location, and why. His last theatrical film was also about robots (T3), so he’s got a perspective here, and this film apparently used more CGI shots (over 800) than the Terminator film, but almost all of them were used on actors, to convert them to surrogates. So while it’s effects-heavy, paradoxically the effects don’t dominate.

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