Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 05 October 2009
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
Bruce Willis with hair? That’s the point at which you know there’s a surrogate on the scene. In fact the world is full of them – life-like robots that venture into the mean streets of society to work, play, flirt, party and live lives that fluctuate at whim between risky or mundane. Their organic owners, many of them decidedly NOT eye candy, lie safely in high-tech chaise lounges or “stim-chairs”, vicariously experiencing what their robotic replicas encounter.
Owners can tune out/shut down at any time. Who wants to be conscious during a mass transit commute or a boring conversation? They are safe in a sedentary cocoon of existence, expending little energy except that generated by brain waves.
Surrogates do not have to look like their owners, although many choose idealized versions of themselves while others choose polar opposites. An obese, middle-aged man sees the world through the eyes of a sexy young woman while an elderly Jewish man sends a tall, African American male (with model features) out to represent him as a federal official.
This seemingly idyllic world is shattered one night by the decimation of two surrogates. Not that their demise is all that unusual; that’s what surrogates are for. This time, however, the owners die as well, their brains liquefying in their skulls as they lull in the false security of their comfy command centers. Who possesses the weapon that can do this and where did it come from?
Enter FBI agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) and his partner Jennifer Peters (Radha Mitchell). As part of the investigation they encounter both surrogate inventor Lionel Canters (James Cromwell) and The Prophet, (Ving Rhames) leader of the human resistance that call themselves The Dreads, presumably after their leader’s hairstyle; or perhaps it’s because the fear-based group lives on a reservation, regarded as extremists by the rest of the world. Canters’ son was one of the unfortunate surrogate owners who got murdered, the perpetrator thinking he had offed Canter himself.
Meanwhile, Greer’s own surrogate gets destroyed by conventional means – he’s wandered into the humans-only reservation controlled by The Prophet, is discovered and dispatched. Peters’ surrogate is taken over by a mysterious operative. Greer’s boss, Stone (Boris Kodjoe) is demanding answers, and Greer must proceed into the world in his own body, or “meat bag” as humans are called. A computer program controlling all of the surrogates has been breached and is counting down to a mass destruction of flesh and metal as well.
Greer’s wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike) is as disconnected from her feelings as she is to her husband. Both have suffered the loss of their young son. Greer wants to reconnect; Maggie wants to continue her numbed “life” although she is grief and guilt-stricken. This “real” subplot suggests what can happen when humans navigate the earth on their own. There is tragedy and loss. Surrogates were made to take the fall, shielding their human counterparts from such violence. With the advent of the super weapon, everyone is vulnerable to the pain of experiencing raw life once more.
The rest of the film follows Greer and Peters as they unravel surprising facts that lead them to the weapon’s creator.
Plenty of other issues arise in the 89 minute film to keep the pace so fast you might feel it’s resolved too quickly. Still, you won’t be bored. Just the sociological implications are food for thought even without the whodunit attached. How are wars fought? What are beauty salons for? What about the health issues that arise from a world of techno-savvy couch potatoes? Do surrogates have sex? Not that any of these questions are addressed, but they do make you think.
Bruce Willis is quietly intense as his own idealized, hirsute surrogate as well as his grizzled, balding, wounded “meat bag.” Both roles demand that the actor take them seriously, and Willis delivers. The ever-versatile Ving Rhames, in ferocious dreadlocks, brings an intense zealotry to The Prophet.
Radha Mitchell’s cool presence is ideal for her surrogate’s persona. James Cromwell, usually the voice of reason in a film, allows the cracks in his armor to show, creating a vulnerability that precisely illustrates the difference between human and surrogate. Rosamund Pike takes on the glamorous and gritty dual roles with a confident justification for each. Boris Kodjoe’s Stone supplies the bureaucrat that always hampers the investigation, and he does it well.
Director Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3) takes the audience on a wild ride that almost accelerates too quickly on the way to its surprising conclusion. There are many avenues to explore here, but they are barely visited, much less explored.
Whether you experience the film first hand or through your own surrogate (DVD), its subject matter is sure to spark debate and dialogue in a world that’s already sending new faces on old bodies out into society by way of “plastic” surgery.
Can doctors and scientists foist surrogates on a youth-oriented culture like ours? They can - as the film cautions – if they get us to lie down for it.