SURROGATES: A Jonathon Mostow Touchstone Pictures Film

Surrogates, the new Bruce Willis sci-fi action flick hit the box office last weekend with laser speed, a super high body count and a tough as nails indestructible Bruce.

Take the Sci-Fi ride.

Directed by Jonathan Mostow, the opening scenes of the futuristic film, set in 2017, begin by introducing the audience, through voice over updates and news footage, to the milestones in the Department of Defense Robotics program that moved the once intelligence gathering only agenda to mainstream with the rising public acceptance of the robotic twin.

Surrogates in production.

The DARPA project, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency is fictionally featured as the source for presenting a palatable private sector program known as VSI or Virtual Self Industries through which humans allow Surrogates to perform the mundane, dangerous, live out extreme sexual behaviors, or become ones fantasy personality. 

Peters and Greer at VSI headquarters.

Through voice over the film informs the audience of the moral division among the population over the use of Surrogates. The debate arising from the use of surrogates creates such a divided state  that the government steps in and creates surrogate free zones: “Camps” for the “resistors” to inhabit.

Agent Greer in air pursuit.

The audience is able to gather from prop placement that the character featured in the opening sequence is the son of affluence as he is being chauffeured to the opera in his father’s Rolls Royce. As the conversation ends the opera is a distant memory and the instructions of a new destination are given. The chauffer turns the car and they begin the descent into a seedy clubbing party world.

Riding the MTA in 2017.

After a cordless bungee jump into the mosh pit dance floor the adrenaline rush has the son and a pick-up engaging in illicit sex outside the club’s back door.  This is when the film takes off as a lone assassin points a high tech laser that fires a multi-pronged ray blasting the lover’s. This sets off a chain reaction car crash that causes what appears to be multiple fatalities.

Willis in pursuit.

While the crime scene is being cleared, the FBI is called to investigate as several surrogates including the lover’s are discovered in the twisted metal wreckage. The through line of the film is the premise that the destruction of the surrogates leads to the murders of the controllers which, of course, is a fatal flaw in the operating system.

FBI Agent Peters, Radha Mitchell, and FBI Agent Tom Greer, Bruce Willis.

The first glimpse the audience gets of FBI Agent Tom Greer, played by Willis, is through his surrogate who has been called to investigate the apparent accident which evolves into a murder investigation of the surrogates operator who is the son of the very wealthy surrogate inventor and VSI Chairman, Dr. Oliver Cantor played by James Cromwell.

Rugged "real" Agent Greer investigating the murders.

Greer partners with Agent Peters, played by Radha Mitchell as they soon discover that the young dynamic, sexually aggressive, clubbing party girl surrogate is controlled by an overweight, scruffy faced, boxer shorts wearing old man who seemed to be living out his alter ego and the sexual experiences he desired. 

Greer and Peters stunned to discover the controller of the sexually aggressive murder victim.

Bruce shows up blonde, flawless, without spot or wrinkle, a boy version of the rugged real Bruce that emerges when the surrogate docks himself for recharging. The controller simulator is complete with visual sensors covering the eyes to allow for live action involvement in the surrogates world from the comfort of the lazy boy recliner command center called the stem chair.

Bruce Willis living vicariously through his Surrogate in the stem chair.

The multi-layered elements are primarily portrayed through Willis as he openly deals with his human emotions. He longs for the love his wife, who refuses to leave her stem chair for any interaction, and demonstrates it. He’s a sensitive guy and it’s evident. His emotions, in the plastic world of surrogacy, are worn very openly on his sleeve.

Maggie, the Surrogate for Agent Greer's wife at the salon in 2017.

The film doesn’t reach far into the future for its depiction of a military command central or the advancement of GPS surveillance systems that can, from satellite recon, enhance a city quad to pinpoint street corners and identify target subjects.  Other scenes are clearly a stretch as the film depicts a world where the ground war is fought with surrogates operated by military troops through video gaming software. Clearly, an area that should be developed as the enlisted would never return in body bags. In this cinematic world their counterpart surrogate returns to the lab to be rebuilt, reprogrammed, rewired and returned to the front lines.

Greer and Peters investigating the body bags arriving from the front lines.

The film has sexually voyeuristic overtones as human controller’s choose a surrogate, either a younger more vivacious clone or a fantasy personality, but always a younger, flawless version in a youthful obsessed culture.

Agent Peters in the government's laboratory.

Ving Rhames, portrays The Prophet, a Jim Jones/David Koresh religious fanatic who rockets to fame through his ability to brainwash the resistors. Every movement needs a leader and this movement became his opportunity.  The role was intricate to the film and shallow in its development. It looked as if he were miscast; although he made the most of it. His depth of talent is better suited for opportunities where he can exhibit his range, intensity and skill.

The Prophet played by Ving Rhames.

The resisters unfortunately are reminiscent of the film Deliverance. They are portrayed as uniformed, rash, back-wood hicks, without support, wherewithal, easily manipulated and of low intelligence and as they are wanting to live free from surrogate involvement they, in fact, become puppets of The Prophet.

Agent Peters with Bobby, (Devin Retray) in the Military's command central.

Devin Ratray who play Bobby, the high tech wizard is a standout. His refusal to be a “puppet” is ridiculed by the surrogates. He's funny with blue collar humor; slovenly in a starched environment; he's king in his domain and is indispensible.

Dr. Oliver Cantor played by James Cromwell.

Both James Cromwell and Devin Retray portray sincere emotion and it seems very real as it contrasts well with the surrogates who are placid, blinded by duty to owner, unseeing, unfeeling, machines. The actors portraying surrogates take on a zombie stone state, much like midtown Manhattan during rush hour, eyes forward, robotic movements, unseeing of the surroundings.

Surrogates recharging.

Although this type of technology may be used in the intelligence and military programs or for evidentiary or surveillance purposes having the everyday surrogate, or clone, over for dinner is highly unlikely.

The film mixes humor with the bizarre; probable with improbable; it's a sci-fi action flick. Some scenes test the limits of the imagination others are true Bruce Willis; tough action hero, best dressed in jeans and a leather jacket; indestructible and always someone you can count on.

Take the sci-fi ride. The film is in theaters everywhere.

For more information on Surrogates:

All pictures courtesy of Google Images.

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