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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 26, 2010


THESE DAYS, we just want to stay home most of the time so the idea in the sci-fi film, "Surrogates", where most people don't leave their cocoons anymore, is personally appealing to us. Surrogates are robotic substitutes that look like the real thing and can do everything for you outside through their eyes and sensors. You can also control them with your own mind while you're right inside the comfort and safety of your own home. They even look better and younger versions of you.

Based on the graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, surrogates began as some kind of luxury item for people who want to try a dangerous adventure like skydiving, but are afraid of getting hurt or injured.

They became very popular and have become indispensable, like cellphones and the internet that some people cannot do without. They were created by a reclusive billionaire scientist, Canter (James Cromwell) to help disabled people to be able to experience what normal people do in life.

Since there is now very little interaction between humans and everything is done through surrogates, it has eliminated violent crimes as only the surrogates get hurt. But a mysterious weapon is created killing not only the surrogate but also its owner, when this is not supposed to happen. Two people and their surrogrates are killed so FBI agents are tasked to arrest the killer, Greer (Bruce Willis) and Peters (Radha Mitchell.) They seek the help of Canter, who happens to be the father of the first victim. Canter thinks he's really the target for murder and blames the company he created but which he no longer manages.

Greer and his wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike) have become too reliant on their respective surrogates after their son died tragically some years ago. Surrogates clearly also increase loneliness and isolation, so there's a movement rejecting surrogate culture led by The Prophet (Vhing Rames), whose followers have been marginalized, living in slumlike reservations. When Greer's surrogate is destroyed, the FBI rejects the idea of giving him another one so he is forced to go out of his isolation and do the investigation using his real self. The information he uncovers while investigating culminates in a suspenseful climax.

The material is not really new as it's been tackled before in films like "Seconds" (with the late Rock Hudson) and also echoes elements in "Blade Runner", "AI", "The Island", "Star Trek:", "The Matrix" and "Dark City". But Director Jonathan Mostow ("Terminator 3") succeeds in coming up with a fast-paced action flick. It could have delved into more serious matters like probing the emotional complexities of a world where advanced technological gadgets reign supreme, but it's not really into that. We just wish, though, that it didn't skimp on some aspects of narrative development, which is what happens when swift pacing is given priority over more coherent content. As such, the movie seems to have a rushed ending, but it does deliver some well staged action set pieces, including a thrilling chase scene and a helicopter crash.

The visual effects they use to make surrogates appear so human-like is superb, although it's still creepy as they don't really act like human. This must be a combination of make up and CGI to make the surrogate Bruce Willis look about 25 years younger than the real one, who looks more like the grizzled veteran law enforcer that he is. Bruce delivers a solid performance in both roles. He's not the invincible John McClane of the "Die Hard" series here but more of a regular hero who can commit fumbles. He also handles his emotional scenes with Pike well.

As a whole, it's an entertaining popcorn sci-fi action thriller that runs for a breezy hour and a half.