Saturday, July 10, 2010
This movie was like cheesecake to me. I loved every bite. And although I will admit to being more than slightly biased when it comes to Breaking Benjamin, the band's contribution to the soundtrack honestly did not factor into my enjoyment of the film. With or without Ben Burnley's awesomeness, this movie rocked.
Unfortunately, SURROGATES was not as well-received as I believe it could have been. Perhaps it was released too closely to the box office phenomenon, AVATAR, as if no other spec fic films were allowed to have any measure of success within a certain radius from James Cameron's epicenter. Or something. And I'm sure part of the blame can also be given to the fact that the movie's source material was an already-established literary work. All it takes is one popular reviewer to say the movie didn't live up to expectations and the nay-saying spreads like a malignant cancer.
Too bad. It is not every day that a sci-fi movie can get me to cry.
In its most basic form, SURROGATES is a classic dystopian tale of human ethics regarding the use of robotics to ease our everyday life. Plug into a surrogate (which is basically a machine version of yourself, but doesn't necessarily have to look like you in any way) and you suddenly have no boundaries. You can't get hurt, you can't die, you can do no wrong.
On the downside, you don't really know who you're looking at--who's behind the surrogate. This point is brought out early on in the story, when the surrogate host (the person controlling the machine) of a young "female" club hopper is found to be an obese middle-aged man. Kinda creepy. I think I actually shuddered at that part because it reminded me that people you know through the internet could really be anyone. Lies are easily told from behind a mask.
Not surprisingly, this creates a rift. The majority of people are okay with using surrogates and in a very short period of time it becomes the norm. Then there are the minority groups who feel it is morally wrong to try to play God with yourself. They live in separate surrogacy-free communities, and for some reason, they look and act like crazy mountain folk. They label themselves the Human Coalition and have a leader egging them on. His catch phrase--"You have been sold a lie"--becomes a key to understanding the plot, which follows the basic structure of a mystery.
It starts with the murder of the son of the man who created surrogates. Conspiracy! But how is he murdered through his surrogate? There are safeties in place that make it impossible... unless you have a nifty weapon that shoots swirly blue light and make the surrogates' heads explode from the inside out and at the same time kills the host.
Ooh. That sucks. What sucks even more is that the very same company who created the surrogates, created said weapon. And so the drama unfolds...
That is the basic concept of the movie. I have to give credit to the writers/filmmakers for not focusing on the idea of surrogacy so much as to make people think it is some groundbreaking new thing. It's not. We've already seen this concept of "plugging in" ten years prior, in THE MATRIX, albeit in a somewhat different form. But the direction they take it in is what makes it different. The plot had me guessing all the way until the end, and none of the twists seemed hokey or unrealistic.
As with any sci-fi story, though, it is the human quality of some of the characters in SURROGATES that got me to love it. The subplot of the main character and his personal life both past and present is what made me cry at the end. The cuts made to this character were deep and not easily healed. As a wife and mother I could relate, but maybe I'm also just a sucker for people who actually have real emotions.
The movie is chock-full of big name actors. James Cromwell, once again, plays the genius scientist behind the world-changing technology (see I, ROBOT and STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT).Ving Rhames (who was also a delight in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE) plays The Prophet, leader of the Human Coalition. Bruce Willis delivers a performance as only he can (see THE FIFTH ELEMENT) as Tom Greer, the FBI agent assigned to the murder case. And Rosamund Pike amazed me in her role as Maggie, Tom's wife, internally conflicted and outwardly poised. Best for last? Indeed. Radha Mitchell plays Agent Peters, Tom Greer's partner. I first saw her as Carolyn Fry in the sci-fi classic PITCH BLACK (it's a classic to me, anyway) and she's been one of my favorite actresses ever since, even in non-SF movies, such as FINDING NEVERLAND.
SURROGATES gets a full five stars from me. Good story, good tech, good action. If you're anything like me, it will satisfy your inner SF critic.