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03 December 2023

A substitute for a great film

The film fails to capture the complexity of the graphic novels on which it is based. (SUPPLIED)

By Damon Smith

Reclusive genius Dr Lionel Carter (James Cromwell) oversees a future in which humans slip on virtual-reality goggles and take control of robotic doppelgangers to carry out day-to-day tasks in Surrogates, the 2009 sci-fi film adapted from the comic books.

When Dr Carter's son is murdered, seemingly while connected to a surrogate, the scientist entreats FBI Agent Greer (Bruce Willis) and his partner Jennifer Peters (Radha Mitchell) to apprehend the man responsible, Miles Strickland (Jack Noseworthy), who is in possession of an "overload device," which literally fries the brain of the surrogate and its user. Miles is hiding in the Dread Zone, an area of the city ruled by The Prophet (Vhing Rhames) and his followers, who vehemently reject surrogates. In his pursuit of justice, Greer's robotic helper is damaged and the cop is forced to re-enter the real world and contend with his estrangement from his wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike).

But the intriguing premise with which this 85-minute futuristic action thriller begins is clumsily executed by director Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines). Screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris barely touch upon the moral implications of a mechanised society, failing to capture the complexities of Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele's celebrated graphic novels.

Real Bruce and fake Bruce, the latter sporting flawless skin and a full crop of hair, are equally inexpressive, while Mitchell and Pike appear almost entirely as their robotic alter-egos. The "surprising" revelations of the final chapter are glaringly obvious and poke large holes in the film's logic. Action sequences are well-orchestrated if short on thrills, including an hilarious car chase. Mostow's film is future imperfect.

DVD extras include director commentary and the I Will Not Bow music video. The Blu-ray version also features deleted scenes and two featurettes: A More Perfect You: The Science Of Surrogates and Breaking The Frame: A Graphic Novel Comes To Life.


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