Surrogates

Bruce Willis with hair! When's the last time you saw that? We're talking bleached-blond surfer-dude hair that flops over his forehead. And yet, after the first moment of shock, it doesn't look all that silly, which is a pretty impressive achievement, I'd say.

But you want plot, I suppose. We've got some of that, too! It's some unspecified time in the future, and technology has made great leaps in one area: a method of using only a person's thoughts to control a human-like android. It's only a shell, incapable of independent reasoning or movement, but when a person is linked to their surrogate (surrey is the cute little nickname), they can walk, talk, grocery shop, cliff dive, pick fights with really large angry guys, and take countless other risks without ever leaving the safety of their comfy chairs at home. They do look very comfy, but I hope technology has improved there as well, or the entire population has some really awful bedsores.

The idea is that these surrogates, which everyone uses (except for the obligatory weird little fringe group called Dreads, who think that life should be for the living), have all but eliminated crime. I find that hard to believe, personally. It seems to me that this setup would just make crime easier. Presumably the surreys don't come with unique fingerprints, so I don't see what's stopping anyone who wants to from going house to house, robbing and/or murdering people while they're lying in those comfy chairs. Maybe they have some techy way of stopping that, but if so, they don't make it clear in the film. They mention a brand-new way of preventing such crimes, but who knows what they were doing before that. Probably crossing their fingers and hoping for the best.

Anyway, Bruce Willis has hair, or rather his surrey does, and also the same perfect, flawless, plasticky complexion that everyone else does. The makeup is really great in that respect -- everyone looks like a Stepford Wife, as close to perfect as one can get in this world. He's FBI agent Tom Greer (Ken), and he and his partner Agent Peters (aka Barbie, played by Radha Mitchell) have been called to the scene of a car accident where a bunch of surreys were smooshed and are now leaking green stuff everywhere. The FBI's there because one of the, er, victims is unregistered -- normally each one has a serial number that can be tracked to its owner. But not this one, and Ken and Barbie are puzzled.

They have a further shock in store when they track down the owner of one flattened surrey, a beautiful blonde woman, and discover a fat middle-aged man. (Okay, that’s not really a shock for them, but consider the implications. They say there are no real women on the internet, but now there are suddenly no real women anywhere.) No, the shock is that the owner is stone cold dead, killed by the same force that fried his surrey’s optic units.

Suddenly the ultimate way of being safe is kinda dangerous. It’s a public relations nightmare! Thank goodness we have our hero, Ken – except Ken’s broken, and suddenly he’s Tom again, walking around as a Meatbag, as the people hiding behind their surrogates like to call them. It’s like being a homeless person wandering around through an upscale neighborhood – you get stared at. A lot. But he’s on the job anyway, much to the horror of his wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike, of Fracture, and also Foyle's War, an excellent BBC series), who never ever leaves the safety of her surrey, and thinks he’s insane for going after bad guys in his real body.

You can see the ending coming a mile away, but it’s still kind of fun getting there. This was really sort of a last-minute summer flick – it makes you think about the implications of that sort of a world, but not too hard. Mostly you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. A friend of mine mentioned reading a review that said Bruce Willis hadn’t been in a movie that was actually good for years, but I think that’s too harsh. I’m giving this one a respectable three idols – they went for action over thought, and this could have been a very thought-provoking movie; but that doesn’t mean they failed. They set out to entertain, and they did. Bruce with hair alone was worth the trip.

Originally posted October 2009

Image: 
New this year: FBI Ken and Barbie

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