A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Surrogates pushes the limits of its PG-13 rating. Yes, it's set in a futuristic world and most of the violence and mayhem is directed at robot "surrogates," but the images are still disturbingly bloody and destructive because these surrogates are portrayed by (and look exactly like) humans. There are lots of shootings with direct hits at close range, bodies flying through the air, multiple crashes that leave many dead or severely wounded, beatings, burnings, and explosions. Scenes graphically depict the extermination of the human replicas. Strong language is fairly infrequent but includes "s--t"; there's also a good bit of drinking, as well as some futuristic drug use. Sexual activity is portrayed in only a few scenes, but it's shown as casual and self-indulgent and involves promiscuity (but no nudity).
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What's the story?
SURROGATES is set in a future in which most human beings ("operators") avoid relationships, activity, interaction, and participation in the simple act of living by isolating themselves in their homes and conducting their daily "public" lives via automated, perfect-looking, nearly indestructible robots known as "surries." Using their own surrogates, FBI Agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) and his partner are ordered to investigate the murder of the son of the mastermind of surrogate technology, Dr. Lionel Canter (James Cromwell). When Greer's own surry is destroyed, the real -- and now much more vulnerable -- FBI agent is forced from the insular safety of his operator's lair into the city streets. Efforts to solve the crime find Greer joining a contingent of the very few people who find the surrogate world unequivocally wrong. These hold-outs ("meatbags"), led by The Prophet (Ving Rhames), have been banished to reservations, where they attempt to counter the quietly menacing forces that have a hold on humanity.
Is it any good?
This movie about humanity's disconnect feels soulless and shallow, even disconnected itself. Using a graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele as source material, director Jonathan Mostow and the screenwriters work hard to examine society's blind acceptance of the mechanization that's rapidly gaining on us -- and to reveal its dangers. Unfortunately, while the movie offers some intriguing visuals and imaginative and skillful action sequences -- along with an interesting premise -- the film is undone by wooden performances, a less-than-subtle message, twists that are easy to spot, and some ludicrous motivation. And a subplot about Greer's failing relationship with his wife after the death of their son is melodramatic and very thin.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. Does it have less impact because most of the victims are technically robots? Does the fact that they look more human than machine affect your reaction?
What is the movie saying about technology? Can you think of ways that technology could inhibit your active participation in life around you? Is there a way to safeguard against that?
All of the surrogates seem to be extremely beautiful, handsome, and very fit. What is the movie saying about how we see ourselves and the value we place on outward appearances?
- In theaters: September 25, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: January 26, 2010
- Cast: Bruce Willis, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames
- Director: Jonathan Mostow
- Studio: Touchstone Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, language, sexuality and a drug-related scene
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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