Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
An efficient, engaging B-movie parable that grappled with technology, civil liberties, terrorism, freewill and religious subtext all in 89 minutes, 2009’s Surrogates was a true rarity — a good movie in which bald Bruce Willis boasts a head of hair.
That’s when Willis’s FBI agent Tom Greer is in “surrogate” form — a walking, talking representation of a human. Operating surrogates are people plugged into “stem” chairs and vicariously experiencing life without leaving home or fear of bodily harm.
Crime drops by 99 percent. Racism and sexism are eliminated. Everyone is seemingly better off through this combination of separation and sedation.
But when the son of surrogacy’s reclusive father is killed while partying up inside his surrogate, Greer will have to shed his shiny surrogate skin and dangerously trek the real world for the first time in years.
Director Jonathan Mostow plays up the Kurt Vonnegut-ian aspects of this graphic-novel premise as much as the $80-million budget will let him. Despite barrel-roll momentum, Mostow settles for two good action sequences rather than a slam-bang pace.
Instead, Surrogates allows frightening notions to fester, with undercurrents of the Patriot Act, judgmental decrees of godliness and the idea we’re together, but alone, tied into virtual selves. To that end, Willis delivers potent work as a man reconnecting with his very senses.
An incredibly tactile film from a project that appears to be slick, superficial science-fiction, Surrogates told a taut and cautionary, if mainstream, tale against numbing ourselves at the root of reality.