I’ve never read the comic book series which was the basis for this film, but I am glad that a comic book that isn’t about superheroes was the source of a mainstream Hollywood movie. I really like the premise for the film: the world has developed ‘surrogates’, extremely lifelike robots which can be controlled by the human brain and function as a person in the outside world, leaving the operator to lounge in their pyjamas at home in the control unit. This throws up lots of questions about the nature of society, such as the question of cost, thus making the division between classes even greater, and who does the actual work, what the work in such a society actually is, the presumably second-class status of humans in this society, whether there is any long-distance travel (do people go to business and holiday locations using surrogates rather than planes?). However, the film isn’t really bothered with any of these questions, which probably doesn’t come as a surprise.
Bruce Willis’ character works for the FBI (why is there an FBI if crime is as low as the opening montage says? And why are there so many agents?) and looks hilarious in his surrogate: the CGI to make his face look shiny and young is hypnotic, and his wig is something else. I’m sure he tries to keep his body and face still when doing these scenes, to help the CGI. The story is fairly straightforward, although it tries to be a complicated mystery thriller, but at least it doesn’t wear out its welcome – it’s over in about 80 minutes, so there’s no padding (although there is some small bits to establish the nature of the relationship between Willis and his wife – Rosamund Pike, being typecast as the frosty woman – and the accidental death of their son).
Jonathan Mostow directs with efficiency and competency but nothing special – the film feels rather flat for a world in the future; the scenes in the streets look so much like the backlots of television studios, I began to wonder if it was supposed to be an elaborate joke on the nature of surrogacy: why use real locations, when you can use an easier substitute? This is an efficient thriller, hanging off the capable shoulders of Willis, and buoyed by some nice small turns from James Cromwell and Ving Rhames. However, it has a very strange ending – Willis saves everyone in a surrogate from being killed, but he allows all surrogates to be destroyed in the middle of day, when everyone is going about their business, in front of a witness. How is he going to be allowed to get away with that? The end of the world as they knew it, and he’s going to walk free? Unbelievable.