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Movie Review

Surrogates

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Surrogates
Entertaining, suspenseful, and original, "Surrogates" is a first-rate sci-fi action thriller that has something pertinent to say about the times we live in. Indeed, despite its futuristic themes, the movie states it is set in the Present Day. Not quite, but the premise that 98 percent of all human beings sit at home hooked up to a device where they can live vicariously through a surrogate that represents the perfect physical and youthful ideal of themselves is intriguing, to say the least.

It's interesting that this film should come to us from Disney (through its Touchstone label) because the kind of utopia where pain, crime, fear, and other discomforts of living in today's paranoid, terror-driven society simply don't exist is eerily like the suburban fantasyland Walt Disney once projected we would inhabit. Of course, there wouldn't be a movie if there wasn't some kind of hiccup in the plan, so when a murder occurs and stuns the community, an FBI agent (Bruce Willis) must abandon his surrogate (a younger-looking Willis, with a really bad blond toupee) and jump into action.

The world on display here is one of endlessly pretty people going about their business without a care in their heads. It's the Madison Avenue vision of what we would like the world to be, a planet without wrinkles or aging or racism or essentially any differences. It's a Ralph Lauren billboard on a global scale. Yes, there are some similarities to "The Stepford Wives" here, but the script, by John Brancato and Michael Ferris (based on a graphic novel), has more on its mind and perfectly represents not only the paranoia of a post–Sept. 11 landscape but also the comfort of living through a computer-driven existence. Absurd, yes, but kind of plausible if technology is continually allowed to take over so many daily tasks humans once did for themselves.

Leading the well-chosen cast is Willis, who gets to play the bald tough guy we know from "Die Hard" movies but also dons the aforementioned toupee to play the "more desirable" version of his character. Willis brings a lot of humanity and credibility to the role and keeps the show in balance. As his FBI partner, Radha Mitchell is quite good. So is Rosamund Pike, as the wife who is conflicted when Willis leaves their preferred surrogate lifestyle to go "human" on her. Another standout in the large but mostly nondescript cast is James Cromwell as the mysterious Howard Hughes–like inventor of the surrogate phenom, who holds a secret Willis must uncover.

At 88 minutes, "Surrogates" moves like lightning thanks to Jonathan Mostow's assured direction and a story line even "Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling would be proud of. See it for yourself, but leave your surrogate at home.

Genre: Action/Science Fiction
Written by: John Brancato, Michael Ferris
Directed by: Jonathan Mostow
Starring: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, James Cromwell, Boris Kodjoe, Ving Rhames

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