Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

"Shares too many similarities with the surrogates, in that it's ultimately pretty lifeless."

Twelve Monkeys, The Fifth Element, Unbreakable... over the years Bruce Willis has headlined some of the finest high-concept sci-fi flicks out there. True, he's never done it with such a naff wig (it really merits its own title credit), but regardless the perennial world-saver teamed with Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines director Jonathan Mostow to add another on his list.

This time, he finds himself in a near future, where humans mostly stay indoors and use robotic replicas of themselves - known as surrogates - to lead risk-free lives. All of a sudden, someone finds a way to start murdering the human owners by destroying the machines and FBI agent Tom Greggs (Willis) is sent in to investigate. Already unsure of surrogacy, Greggs is forced to ventured outside for the first time in years when his surrogate is destroyed.

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Essentially, the film plays out like I, Robot by way of Terminator 3. In terms of the former, the story imagines the widespread use of robots to keep mankind safe while examining their effect on society, As for the latter (unsurprising seeing as Mostow's last film was T3 and featured the same writers) we get many of the same trademarks - effective direction, a bravely haunting denouement and a few moments of cybernetic frenzy.

Sadly though, it also shares too many similarities with the surrogates, in that it's ultimately pretty lifeless. Now, while this may have been intentional, it leads to a story that is almost entirely-humourless and unengaging. Willis does his usual stoic saviour role competently - sans McClane wisecracks and vest - but there isn't much difference between how he portrays robot Tom and real Tom. The bad boy-band wig aside.

Definitely, by looking at the de-personalisation and social-disconnect dangers of living in the Facebook era and taking time to be poignant, Mostow et al deserve praise for giving us a sci-fi actioner with more brains than your average blockbuster. But still, we're just never gripped like we were with Willis' aforementioned forays into science ficition. A stunningly-hot Radha Mitchell or not...

Much like the titular machines, Mostow's first movie since the third Terminator looks good and does a job, but is just too assembly-line in the end.

Reviewed on: 10 Nov 2009
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Surrogates packshot
In a world where everyone operates through artificial bodies, two cops investigate a murder with real human victims.
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Jennie Kermode ***

Director: Jonathan Mostow

Writer: Michael Ferris, John D Brancato

Starring: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Boris Kodjoe, James Francis Ginty, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames

Year: 2009

Runtime: 88 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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