Surrogates (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 18, 2010 by  

Bruce Willis definitely still has it!  Intriguing concept based on the hit comic book series, “Surrogates” is filled with action, suspense and looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray!

Images courtesy of © Buena Vista Home Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Surrogates

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen 2:40:1, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA (48 kHz/24-Bit), Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

RATED: PG-13 (For Intense Sequences of Violence, Disturbing Images, Language, Sexuality and a Drug Related Scene)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: January 26, 2010

Directed by Jonathan Mostow

Screenplay by Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato

Graphic Novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele

Executive Producer: Elizabeth Banks, David Nicksay

Produced by Max Handelman, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman

Music by Richard Marvin

Cinematography by Oliver Wood

Edited by Kevin Stitt

Casting by Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins, Michelle Lewitt

Production Design by Jeff Mann

Art Direction by Tom Reta, Dan Webster

Set Decoration by Debbie Cutler, Basia Goszczynska, Fainche MacCarthy

Costume Design by April Ferry


Bruce Willis as Tom Greer

Radha Mitchell as Peters

Rosamund Pike as Maggie

Boris Kodjoe as Stone

James Francis Ginty as Canter Surrogate

James Cromwell as Older Canter

Ving Rhames as the Prophet

Jack Noseworthy as Bobby

Michael Cudlitz as Colonel Brendon

FBI agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) lives in a world where robotic surrogates stand in for people, protecting them from violence, contagion—and the appearance of aging. These picture perfect, real-life avatars—fit, good-looking, remotely controlled machines that assume their operator’s life role—enable the population to experience life vicariously from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Greer and his partner, Agent Peters (Radha Mitchell), are called in to probe the mysterious death of a college student, whose life ended when his surrogate was destroyed. When Greer’s surrogate is damaged in the investigation, he ventures out of his apartment for the first time in decades. In a world of masks, Greer must decide who is real and who can be trusted.

In 2009, the film “Surrogates” directed by Jonathan Mostow (“Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”, “U-571”) and starring Bruce Willis (“Die Hard” film, “Sin City”, “The Sixth Sense”, “Unbreakable”) was released in theaters.

An adaptation of the five issue comic book series of the same name by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele featured top notch special effects and the film budgeted at $80 million received mix reviews and made only $60 million worldwide.

Despite failing short of breaking even, the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on Jan. 26th.

“Surrogates” takes place in a world where robotics have become part of everyday life.  People can now select a surrogate robot, have it look whatever they would like and through upgrades can function in a variety of jobs in society.

The surrogates have a chip which records the interaction of a surrogate and the human operator of the surrogate uses a device in which they put on goggles and a device scans their brainwaves in order to take control of the surrogate.  Also, in case the surrogates are involved in anything illegal, the police department has control of shutting down a surrogate.

This technology has helped lower crime and has been effective for law enforcement and the military.  The technology developed by the corporation VSI has become the most successful company in the world.  But not everyone is supportive of this technology.  A group of humanity is against it and has created “Surrogate-free” zones in every state and many follow their leader known as “The Prophet” (played by Ving Rhames, “Mission Impossible” films).

In the film, someone has been destroying surrogates by frying them using a specialized weapon.  This weapon not only destroys the surrogate, it kills the operator controlling the surrogate by liquefying their brains.

Investigating the case are Tom Greer (played by Bruce Willis) and Peters (played by Radha Mitchell, “The Children of Huang Shi”, “Henry Poole is Here”, “Silent Hill”).  Tom is an officer who uses his surrogate (that looks like a younger version of him) and although in control and does a great job at work, at home his personal life is not going that well.

Tom’s wife Maggie (played by Rosamund Pike, “Freefall”, “Pride & Prejudice”, “Doom”) has not been out of her room since the day their child was killed in an accident.  She has simply lived her life through her surrogate and has not had any direct contact via her real body with Tom.  Tom has unsuccessfully tried to pull his wife away from shutting down her surrogate and he feels he is losing her.

Now murders are happening all over the city with surrogates being destroyed and their operators being killed.  Will Greer and Peters solve their case, or will they now be the targets of the killers?


“Surrogates” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1).  Picture quality is actually quite interesting because a lot of the special effects went into making the surrogates look not like actual humans.  Director Jonathan Mostow explains how they purposely removed any blemishes, acne from the skin of the surrogates and with that being the case, you don’t really see too many actual humans in this film (until the end).  We see Bruce Willis in his young CG-enhanced surrogate look but then you see the current, older Bruce Willis with the hair stubble, blood on his face, grime on his face.

Some scenes have quite a bit of detail such as a scene when the military arrive at the Dread compound, the CG detail of the robot/surrogates.  But overall, there is a lot of CG in the film but one of the best scenes is the destruction caused in downtown Boston.  That is an actual shot and not CG’d.  People and destroyed vehicles scattered around.

Overall, some people may wonder if the scenes were DNR’d (Digital Noise Reduction) but they weren’t.  This was intentionally done to separate what a surrogate looks like versus a human.  Found no artifacts or combing.   Blacks were nice and deep.  But for the most part, “Surrogates” looks good but some may feel it had too much special effects and CG.  But personally, the technology, special effect fit the film’s theme quite nicely.

As for lossless audio, “Surrogates” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA (48 kHz/24-bit) and French, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  “Surrogates” utilizes a lot of sound effects due to the action scenes.  Crashing cars, helicopters, gun shots, booms, broken glass, motorcycle engine revving and more.  The film’s dialogue is understandable and clear through the center channel, music score is clear through the fronts and great use of LFE and the surround channels for the sound effects.  Especially how audio pans from various directions.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.


“Surrogates” comes with the following special features presented in 1080p, English5.1 or 2.0 Dolby Digital and optional subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.

  • Audio Commentary by Director Jonathan Mostow – Director Jonathan Mostow gives viewers insight on the scenes of the film, the challenges of making this film and using so many special effects, working with the talents and more.  A pretty informative and enjoyable commentary.
  • Deleted Scenes – (6:03) A total of four deleted scenes: Dread Encounter, Apologies & Theories, What You’re Looking At and The Real Peters.
  • A More Perfect You: The Science of Surrogates – (14:34) A look at the advancement of technology and robots in society.  From helping those who are utilizing the technology for medical reasons to helping those with disabilities, utilization in the military and how far we are technology-wise at this current time.  But also asking ourselves if this science does become available, do we accept it or change it before it becomes something like what is featured in the film “Surrogates”.
  • Breaking the Frame: A Graphic Novel Comes to Life – (6:33) A look at how “Surrogates” became a comic book by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, bringing the film adaptation to life and getting Bruce Willis to play the main character role.
  • “I Will Not Bow” Music Video by Breaking Benjamin – (3:49)

A film with an intriguing concept that focuses less on the characters and moreso on the overall action.

When it comes to the overall theme of “Surrogates”, personally its a subject that I’m quite fascinated with.  I’ve read about robotics in Japanese culture from its earlier years to its present stage and how various societies use the technology.  But at the same time, being intrigued about how tied we are to the Internet, especially those who are addicted to MMORPG’s to social media.

You know that there is that next step with technology and we’ve seen several interpretations of it in shows such as “Star Trek” to animated series such as “.Hack/Sign”.  But “Surrogates” definitely gives us an idea of a distant future, especially as technology and the military come together in finding ways to limit the loss of life.  So, the concept of “Surrogates” is quite intriguing to me.

As for the film, I enjoyed the action and the concept but the film has its problems in terms of storyline especially when it comes to the character of older Canter (played by James Cromwell) and his motivations.  Also, the weapon that was being utilized and how Stone (played by Boris Kodjoe) is connected.  At 89 minutes, there could have been 5-10 minutes fleshing out character development for certain characters.  But Because of this, certain parts of the plot seem to farfetched.  It would have been great to see more of this hostility between humans and the surrogates (as shown in the deleted scenes).

But the film’s saving grace is Bruce Willis along with Radha Mitchell and Rosamund Pike.  Rosamund Pike definitely brings the emotional aspect while both Bruce Willis and Radha are part of the action.  Bruce Willis was effective for the role of Greer and this is an action-based popcorn flick.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Surrogates” looks very good and sounds fantastic in HD.  But I wished there were additional features with an interview with the cast but also a more in-depth special feature on the creation of the special effects.  For a film that was special effects heavy, it would have been nice to see something incorporated to show how certain scenes and the look of the film were done.

Overall, “Surrogates” is an entertaining film that has a message which works.  It’s just that its execution was a bit off and possibly not going all action but showing some of the character depth via scenes explaining or showing motivation, that would have been nice to see.  But in the end, “Surrogates” was an enjoyable, action film with an interesting concept and also showing us that as an action star, Bruce Willis still has it!

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  • brucefan

    of course bruce willis still has it as a an action hero no one is as compelling