Writers: Michael Ferris, John D. Brancato
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Cast: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Boris Kodjoe, James Francis Ginty, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames, Jack Noseworthy, Devin Ratray, Michael Cudlitz
Studio: Touchstone Home Entertainment
Original Theatrical Release Date: September 25, 2009
DVD Release Date: January 26, 2009
Online Availability: Amazon for $23.49
Bruce Willis is good at high action, thriller-intensive movies. He’s also good at psychologically messed up Sci Fi. One of my favorite Willis movies just happens to be 12 Monkeys, which isn’t a standard Bruce Willis action flick. Willis is one of the few true blue action heroes that can actually act. Back in the day, I remember watching him on Moonlighting, which showed the guy could be funny and could act, but somehow between then and now, he’s transformed into this bad ass action flick actor who is overlooked for the true talent he has.
For fans who have been fans of Willis as long as I have, you’ve seen the evolution of his career and look forward to nearly everything he’s in. You can guarantee they’ll be action, usually a decent plot, if not, the movie is at least watchable. I knew that I would want to see Surrogates not just from the cool and intriguing trailer, but also because Bruce Willis plays the lead character. I had a feeling I’d like the story behind the movie and I was right.
Going into this review, the only thing I knew about the movie was what I learned from the trailer. I knew the movie was futuristic and I knew people had surrogates, but I had no idea the depths this story would go to, when explaining the purpose of surrogates. As someone in a wheelchair, the entire idea of having a chance to live vicariously through a healthy body is an interesting prospect. While I’d never be able to go to the lengths these people went to by constantly controlling surrogates and having no outside contact with the world, the entire idea of having my own surrogate for when I wanted to experience things I couldn’t due to my chair makes me almost giddy at the thought.
Truth be told, we have our own version of surrogates right here on the web. Online, we can be whoever and whatever we want. While we are not afforded the visual and physical connections to a surrogate, the internet still allows us to live vicariously through the persona(s) we create online. This movie takes all of that to a whole new level and shows how dangerous things could be if everyone had their own surrogate and never had to leave their homes, for anything.
Initially created with physically disabled people in mind, the concept goes out of control, and that is exactly what would happen if surrogates were real in our world. It would ruin interpersonal relationships, keep people locked up and sequestered and destroy the face of the Earth, as we know it. Surrogates would be a game changer, and not necessarily in a good way. I feel this film aptly demonstrates why, as well as why technology (in all the goodness it does provide) should not be used nefariously nor be abused.
The year is 2017. The beginning of the movie tells, through news stories, how surrogates came to be. Originally designed to help physically disabled individuals reclaim their independence by Dr. Lionel Canter (James Cromwell), the company he worked for that created the surrogates has ousted him and made surrogates available to anyone who can afford to buy them. Pretty much the entire world is run by surrogates. The people controlling their surrogates live isolated in their homes and are able to remotely control their surrogates, who live life outside for them.
The surrogates are better looking, nearly indestructible, robots that prevent their operators from feeling any damage or pain. The people operating surrogates live a peaceful existence, or so they believe. When two surrogates are mysteriously murdered and those controlling the surrogates also die, FBI agent, Tom Greer (Bruce Willis), who is using his own surrogate, investigates the murder with his partner, Jennifer Peters (Radha Mitchell). This is the first murder to occur in years, which is puzzling to the agents.
The victim is none other than Jarod Canter, son of the original creator of surrogates. Jarod is actually using one of his father’s surrogates when he is killed, so the investigation leads Greer and Peters back to Canter. This is the first time a controller of a surrogate has died as a result of their surrogate being killed. This kind of technology could destroy the entire world that exists. The case is further complicated when multiple police officers are killed when their surrogates are murdered and Greer nearly dies himself, while pursuing a suspect who has a weapon that can kill the person controlling the surrogates it kills.
With Greer’s surrogate out of commission, the overweight, hurt Greer must leave his home and investigate everything without a surrogate. Things are further complicated when his boss at the FBI suspends him pending further investigation and he must go at the investigation on his own. Greer is led into the hostile territory of The Dreads. This is a camp where those who are against the use of surrogates live. It is a slum that is controlled by their anti-surrogates leader, The Prophet (Ving Rhames). He is allowed to leave, but is told not to return after they discover who he is and that he is looking for Miles Strickland, the man with the killing machine.
The more Greer is out in his own body, the more he realizes what surrogates have done to the world. He tries to get his wife, Maggie (Rosamund Pike), to spend time in her actual body and not her surrogate, but she is still dealing with the loss of their child and wants to hide within the fantasy world surrogates allow her to live within. Feeling his wife growing further apart from him, Greer has nothing to lose from discovering the truth about the death of the surrogates and the bigger plot behind these murders.
Fans and non-fans alike should greatly enjoy this video transfer. It’s hard to argue with a well-formatted MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Even though Surrogates is meant to have somewhat of a dark, dank feel to it (especially in certain parts) things always look good from a technical standpoint. The colors are good when they are in a more colorful setting, the blacks are strong, and the film is visually pleasing from a Blu-ray aspect.
The level of detail is impressive, though if you see something that isn’t supposed to be real, sometimes the amazing quality makes it look even less real. In any case, things look good here. You aren’t going to see a movie that is filled with errors. In fact, none come to mind. I don’t recall any glare, noise, or other glaring visual issues. This is a brand new movie and it looks that way.
If you like the visual quality you will love the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that is offered for audio purposes. The dialogue passes with flying colors, so there is no complaints from me in this area. Things get pretty exciting when it comes to the surround sound, with lots of full power special effects. Despite that the quiet moments are handled very well, too. You will hear cars whiz by and it will sound real enough that you might think you’re hearing things from outside of your house. This is just the best that Blu-Ray has to offer. In addition to standard audio there are mixes in both French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
There are more than a couple special features here, but that doesn’t make everything here worth watching. On the whole, fans will probably ignore more than they will watch. That being said, if you’re going to buy the Blu-ray you might want to do so for the movie rather than the added bonuses.
The audio commentary includes the thoughts of the director, Jonathan Mostow. Fans of Surrogates should enjoy this commentary very much. Mostow is an interesting guy with a lot to say about the movie and his vision. He manages to remain engaging throughout the entire commentary, leaving little dead space. If you aren’t a huge fan of the movie, this will provide some insight into the goals that Mostow had for the film. If you are a big fan, this will further cement your love of the movie and the man that made it.
“A More Perfect You: The Science of Surrogates” – This is a short, 15 minute documentary that takes you into the world of Surrogates. The majority of the cast and some crew are featured in interviews. Robotics are discussed and you get to see what a surrogate looks like if they were really made. KNB Effects is also in-house to talk about their makeup work for the movie. There are some good points here, but there isn’t anything ground breaking or that would stop you from safely skipping this.
“Breaking the Frame: A Graphic Novel Comes to Life” – This a shorter documentary, lasting about six or so minutes that deals with the comic book series that the movie was based on by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele. The coolest thing here is the artwork that comes from the series, which is pretty awesome. Otherwise there is not a lot of stuff here worth checking out.
The only other special features included are five minutes worth of pretty useless deleted scenes and a music video for Breaking Benjamin’s “I Will Not Bow.”
Surrogates provides a unique, interesting story and it looks good while doing it. This is a perfect example of how good Blu-Ray can be. With killer audio and nearly perfect (it could always get better, but this was still amazing) visual qualities, purchasing this film in Blu-Ray is worth the extra money you’ll pay. Action, thriller, and Sci Fi films deserve movies with releases like this one. While there is plenty of action for all those hardcore, kick ass and take no prisoners Bruce Willis fans, there is just as much story to back up these high impact sequences. Don’t bother renting this, because you’ll want to own it. Save time and purchase it now that it’s out. The Surrogates Blu-Ray comes highly recommended.