Dir Jonathan Mostow US (PG15)
This cagey and clever speculative fiction casts Bruce Willis in dual roles that allow him to show off his Bogart-level prowess. He’s FBI agent Harvey Greer, one man split between two selves: a paunchy, sad-eyed hunk of fallible human flesh, and a flawlessly formed, near-indestructible robotic surrogate that does almost all of his outer-world living. This is the reality inhabited by the film’s characters, most of whom prefer to have mechanical avatars do their daily grinding. Save a few pockets of ‘human only’ resistance, Earth is a crime-free utopia… until two surrogates, and their respective human operators, are murdered by an unknown assailant.
What follows is pulp made near-profound through director Jonathan Mostow’s sure-handed guidance (even if it does just sound like someone edited I, Robot and Avatar together to make a new film without extending any effort). It never quite reaches the heights of Mostow’s 1997 action film Breakdown, but – as with that film’s star, Kurt Russell – Mostow elicits from Willis a grizzled and affecting performance. Their work is certain to go unrecognised because it’s so seemingly effortless (and contained within a film that embraces B-movie trappings rather than elevating them). Surrogates is an A-list blockbuster that would fit proudly on the lower half of a double bill.