In the near future the majority of the world’s population permanently stay in the safety of their own homes, instead choosing to live vicariously through ‘surrogates’: robotic counterparts who, more aesthetically pleasing than their human controllers, carry out every mundane task of day to day life. Thus the remote owner of the ‘surrogate’ is able to live entirely risk free, without any consequences of pain, injury or indeed death.
Bruce Willis stars as Agent Tom Greer, investigating a simultaneous murder of a surrogate and its human controller, a crime supposedly impossible. Thus begins an essentially interesting idea, which could have served as a commentary on the morals and motivations of a hugely technologically advanced society and the human condition itself, but due to poor execution lacks the ability or the inventiveness to offer anything new on the subject.
Willis is dependable as ever, but with a lack of character development he is left with very little to do, as the character of Greer is clichéd and poorly developed. The film attempts to create empathy for Greer by informing the audience early on that his young son died tragically, yet this simply serves as a reminder of lazy script writing. The death of his son serves no real narrative purpose other than attempting to add gravitas to the character in the easiest way possible.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines), Surrogates boasts some decent set pieces, and the action itself is never dull. Unfortunately this is not enough to sustain interest, as the plot itself is very difficult to follow, largely due to its convoluted nature: the narrative lumbers along, unable to engage the audience throughout. Characters are underdeveloped and with an often nonexistent back-story, and as a result characters are barely distinguishable from one another.
With no characters to empathise with and root for, the audience is forced to adopt a largely passive attitude, resulting in the ending having very little impact. Surrogates therefore is ultimately a disappointment, and not because it is a fairly uninspired action film. Rather, Surrogates disappoints because it purports to be more than the run of the mill action film, and fails miserably in this task.