Sunday 28 October 2012
Film: Surrogates (2009)
The time is the near future, when the availability of surrogates has transformed the world. These are lifelike androids which are directly controlled by their owners via radio links which have complete sensory feedback, so that the owners can experience life as if they were there in person while remaining safely "plugged in" in their homes. This has led to the mass use of surrogates in everyday life. They can be made to look younger and more attractive than their owners (or indeed, completely different from them), and allow their owners to vicariously experience all sorts of dangerous activities which they would never attempt in person. The small percentage of humans who refuse to use surrogates (derisively known as "meatbags" by the others) live in "Dread Reservations" scattered about the country.
Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) is an FBI agent who via his surrogate (Trevor Donovan, made up to look like a younger and hairier version of Willis) investigates the destruction of two surrogates and discovers that whatever weapon did the damage also killed their owners - something which was supposed to be impossible. Aided by his partner Agent Peters (Radha Mitchell) he tracks the killer and the weapon to a Dread Reservation, but complications ensue as the FBI has no jurisdiction there and the Reservation leader, known as The Prophet (Ving Rhames), is preaching revolution. The plot goes through a whole series of twists and turns before the dramatic finale, as Agent Greer becomes uncertain who is on which side, whether the surrogates are always being controlled by their owners (and if not, by whom?) and what the murders are really all about.
Surrogates is an intriguing and exciting film, a good blend of reasonably realistic science-fictional extrapolation with a high-tension mystery, seasoned with a well-judged quantity of the obligatory chases and crashes. There are some thoughful insights into the effect of surrogacy on everyday life; in the relationship between Greer and his wife (Rosamund Pike) who refuses to meet him except in her surrogate form, and in the uneasiness and vulnerability Greer feels in "meatbag" form when he tries to move among the physically perfect, fast-moving surrogates. It held my attention throughout, and is one of the better SF films I've seen recently. Recommended.