Director    Jonathan Mostow
Starring    Bruce Willis, Rosamund Pike, Radha Mitchell, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames
Release    25 SEP (US) 25 SEP (UK)    Certificate 12A
2 stars


29th September 2009

Movies based on computer games are usually complete balls - it's a well known cinematic fact. But it seems that finally, some powerful people have realised this. The solution: Films inspired by the gaming world but not based upon anything in particular.

For example, Surrogates: based on a comic book, looks like The Sims and features half-inched elements from Blade Runner, I, Robot, Minority Report, The Matrix and many other sci-fi films. And the final result? Bruce Willis looking bored, tired and miserable.

For those who know nothing of the Surrogate world, here's the general gist. In the near future, much of the world's population live as recluses, scared to go outside. Whilst sitting around at home, wallowing in filth, eating crisps and getting some nasty bedsores and a fat arse, they live out a risk free life through their perfectly crafted 'surrogates' without fear of crime, injury or death. In other words, it's like The Sims, only Surrogates speak coherently and don't kill the mailman or paper girl or run around frantically, unable to go to the toilet of their own free will.

When someone starts murdering Surrogates, killing the owner at the same time, it's up to FBI Agent Tom Greer (Willis) and his robotic doppelganger to solve this convoluted conspiracy and (*sigh*) save the world.

Thankfully, we don't have to endure the robotic, emotionless Willis avatar for too long. After the suited up, airbrushed robot with another awful Willis wig gets destroyed by The Dreads (humans who don't believe in the use of Surrogates), Greer narrowly escapes death whilst hooked up to his Xbox, sorry, I mean gaming chair, sorry, I mean Stem Chair. With no Surrogate to use, he's forced to venture into the dangerous world 'naked' as himself - the scruffy, bald, unshaven podgy mess Bruce Willis has become in recent years.

He's still pretty emotionless but at least he does it with style. Why going out into the world without a Surrogate is so unsafe, despite being mentioned earlier that violence is at an all-time minimum, isn't explained - Bruce looks uncomfortable around these perfect robots. That's all we need to know.

[gallery]Jonathan Mostow, back in the directors' chair for the first time since 2003's Terminator 3 brings some of that cyborg vibe to proceedings here. Watching a one-armed, battered and beaten Willis Surrogate chase down a human from a helicopter crash feels very Terminator-ish (though these days, that's not necessarily a good thing). It must be said, Bruce pulls off the robotic acting wonderfully (another back-handed compliment).

There's also an interesting glimpse into what it might be like fighting a war armed with Surrogates. Think of hundreds of people playing Call of Duty with 'real' soldiers hooked up to Surrogate troops - when it dies, they simply get another one. Why they'd need to train up soldiers and have them wearing camouflage is beyond me - there are plenty of computer geeks who could do the same job. Still, it's an interesting highlight.

However, despite a strong cast of Ving Rhames, a brilliant but underused James Cromwell and Rosamund Pike as Willis' avatar-obsessed missus (with a nasty addiction to electricity abuse), Surrogates takes itself far too seriously. Under all the dodgy wigs, waxy faces and creepy robot kids, it's just another indifferent sci-fi flick. Bruce Willis hardly sets the film alight with his charisma either. If he can't be arsed, why should we be?

Deep down somewhere within the script is probably a meaningful message about the use and dependency on modern technology. However, feeling like the weary-eyed human race as they unplug themselves from their 'game', you'll just want to get back out into the real world and put the whole episode behind you.

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