Set in a near future where the world's population lives through hi-tech robotic counterparts - the 'surrogates' of the title, and as they are referred to throughout the film - we follow the story of FBI Agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) who, with his partner Agent Peters (Radha Mitchell), investigates a series of unprecedented murders committed through destroying a person's surrogate. Willis is reliably watchable, but never feels as though he is stretching himself too far from either his troubled loner or irrational action-man archetypal fallback roles. Other than Ving Rhames as The Prophet, the shadowy leader of a resistance movement against the surrogates, and James Cromwell as the inventor of 'surrogacy' (both of whom receive far too little screen time), the cast is largely pedestrian and forgettable.
The story is entertaining enough, providing enough satisfying sci-fi quirks and action sequences to keep things interesting. Things get a little muddled towards the end, and the final act doesn't provide the satisfying payoff that you would hope for. A subplot involving the death of Greer's son and the effect of this on his relationship with his wife (Rosamund Pike) never really manages to go anywhere meaningful. However, the film's swift running time of under ninety minutes does mean it never has the chance to become tedious.
Ultimately, Surrogates feels like a wasted opportunity. There's a huge amount that could have been explored in terms of human morality (there doesn't seem to be any repercussions for destroying a surrogate, despite more than one indication that they aren't exactly cheap pieces of kit), and the current popularity of online chat and smartphones could have been very easily commented upon, but instead is only slightly hinted at. Like I said before, Surrogates draws on a great many entries into the sci-fi canon but unfortunately this usually only serves to remind you of how many better films there are of a similar style that you could be watching. It is enjoyable and worth a look, but in many ways had the potential to be so much more than it is.