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(2009), PG-13 [Hard R-13*] (1hr 23min)

Final Score
Analysis Date
Date Posted
Influence Density
February 14, 2010
February 19, 2010

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(While the Scriptural references are certainly not subjective, my commentary may be and sometimes is somewhat subjective.)

If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary.

(2009), PG-13 [R-13*] ... A fitting title for the story. But not a fitting rating for the movie.

Cast/Crew Details Courtesy Internet Movie Database
Production (US): Touchstone Pictures (presents), Mandeville Films, Road Rebel, Top Shelf Productions, Wintergreen Productions
Distribution (US): Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Director(s): Jonathan Mostow
Producer(s): Elizabeth Banks, Max Handelman, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, David Nicksay
Screenplay: Michael Ferris, John D. Brancato
Novel: Robert Venditti, Brett Weldele
Cinematography/Camera: Oliver Wood
Music: Richard Marvin
Film Editing: Kevin Stitt
Casting: Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins, Michelle Lewitt
Production Design: Jeff Mann
Art Direction: Tom Reta, Dan Webster
Viewed on Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment DVD

This film analysis is sponsored by the generosity of E&HP.

SURROGATES (PG-13). A fitting title for the story. But not a fitting rating for the movie.

Fourteen years ago Dr. Lionel Canter (James Cromwell) founded Virtual Self Industries (VSI) to manufacture fully synthetic bodies which Canter invented. A human host could operate remotely from his/her "stim" chair at home and experience the world through the senses of the synthetic body called a surrogate or "surrie" for short. Dr. Canter is a fitting part for Cromwell who played Dr. Alfred Manning in i. ROBOT, founder of US Robotics, manufacturer of the NS-5 robots Manning invented.

Surrogate research and development went exceedingly well and the world embraced the idea of living through a surrogate. Life was safe and nearly disease-free as the users lived their lives through a surrogate while in the safety of their homes. It is "life, only better."

One of the nice things about using a surrogate is when the surrogate is destroyed the user is safe and could easily get a replacement just by going to the corner store. If a surrie needs reconditioning the user could get a loaner during repairs. A good idea ... or was it.

Eleven years ago production of surrogates became so high the military and industry started using surrogates. Surrogates were so accepted and production became so voluminous that John and Jane Q. Public were able to afford a surrogate. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the use of surrogates in daily life. Surrogates became the norm for everyday life in every way (including as sex partners, of course, as was sure to not be left out by the filmmaker).

Seven years ago over 98% of the world's population was using surrogates in every facet of their daily life. Violent crime dropped 99% as did communicable disease and discrimination.

Three years ago an active minority of the population, the Human Coalition started a movement to limit the use of surrogates. They established surrogate-free zones in major cities called Dread Reservations with territorial sovereignty into which no surrogate could legally enter, not even police. The Human Coalition was led by Zaire Powell (Ving Rhames), better know to the coalition as The Prophet. Powell preached that the surrogates are a lie: that the users of surrogates have been sold a lie; that the day is coming when there would be no surrogates.

The story opens with Jared, the son of the inventor of the surrogates, Dr. Canter using one of his father's surrogates to transport himself to an evening on the town while the biological Jared relaxed in his dormitory room. Here is where the story begins its direction and focus.

Jared, after deceiving his father about where he was going, met with a girl he picked up from a night club and went in an alley to make out with her. Apparently another surrie's host wanted some neckie-neckie, too. Along comes a meatbag -- that is a nickname for a human -- named Miles Strickland (Jack Noseworthy) with a new weapon, an OD (Overload Device) that will kill surries and their human hosts. Strickland killed the Jared surrie by what appeared to be electrocution knowing the OD would kill the surrie's host as well. Killing the surrie with the OD in turn killed its human host by feedback through connectivity with the host. Strickland knew the Jared unit was a surrie and thought it was being used by Dr. Canter. Strickland did not know the surrie was actually being used by Dr. Canter's son. So, knowing the victim surrie's host would be killed by killing the surrie, Strickland killed Jared instead of Dr. Canter. And in the police pursuit of Strickland after Jared's "murder" Strickland murders five "police officer" surries which in turn killed the five host cops. The common thread here is "killing."

Boston-based FBI Agents Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) and Jennifer Peters (Radha Mitchell) are faced with finding that cop killer and the OD which, by the way, was made by VSI, the makers of the billions of surrogate units across the planet.

This is an intricate plot and story which will not let you check your brain at the door. I am not going to try to write a summary commentary of it beyond what I already have. I have given you the basic story formula with a little detail for connectivity of subplots. I suspect that with the basic story formula and the detailed information in the Findings/Scoring section, the heart of the CAP analysis model (plus the individual Investigation Area content discussions below), our readers are of the intellect to be able to mentally build enough of a feeling for the film to not need to see it to formulate an acceptability quotient yet still not spoil the film shroud you decide to watch it.

In a subjective sense Willis seems rather cardboard in this film. I believe anyone, even I, could perform the part as well. And I am not even close to being an actor. In fact, all characters seem to be ... er ... plastic. As plastic as their surries. There was little to no character building to help bond with the characters or get to know them beyond the superficial. That might be explained by the relative shortness of the film, just 83 minutes of actual story time (which does not include the rolling credits and other non-story footage). There simply may not have been enough time to build characters and provide subplots to more deeply intertwine performances and performers. At any rate, it is just an opinion. I am not a filmmaker nor a film critic and have no experience at writing screenplay.

Wanton Violence/Crime (W) - Zero out of 100
While most of the violence involves robots/automatons, the image of decimating the human-like automatons clearly mimics human assault. Except for murder, all instances of humanoid/robot decimation were treated as if they were human since they were personified to human-like status -- the "optics" of robot assault and human assault were the same. Note that "decimate" historically specifies killing one soldier in ten - "deci" - as punishment of the group. My use of "decimate" invokes the contemporary definition of "kill, destroy, or remove a large percentage or part of." The biggest issue with violence in and as entertainment is that it is "catching." It emboldens others to do likewise, become more aggressive and care less about the welfare of others and darkens world outlook (or perspective). That I say it is so does not make it so but that the American Medical Association jointly with three other professional health community agencies plus God Himself say it is so does make it so. [Prov. 16:29, 1 Cor. 15:33 and many others] When are we gonna listen?

Impudence/Hate (I) - 44 out of 100
Though atypically low for a PG-13 [Hard R-13] Surrogates presents nine uses of profanity and none of the most foul of the foul words. But nine is nine too many. Each time profanity is spoken by the larger-than-life characters onscreen it emboldens the viewer, typically the young, to do likewise. The difference in choice of words by the early teen moviegoers before and after South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut is only one example of this. While the most foul of the foul words was rarely heard in the crowd before the show on opening night of "South Puke", the vocabulary of the youth after the film seemed to be only one word (and I use the term "word" loosely), the "word" that was spoken by the children characters in the film 131 times throughout the film (in addition to 119 uses of other "words" of the three/four letter word vocabulary). Or at least most of the exiting youth seemed as if they could not speak a single sentence without that word in it. Many of the uses sounded as though they were uttered just so the speaker could use the bad word or prove s/he could say it. The two-syllable sentence expression directed at someone with the most foul of the foul words leading the tiny sentence seemed to be the most popular.

Mimicking the content of a film is inarguable. The Fast and the Furious which is about teen street racers is a great example of this fact. Before the show the parking lot was clean and the horizon was peaceful. By the time everybody had left there was probably a couple hundred thousand miles worth of tire rubber on the pavement and tires were screeching and engines making the

sound anywhere from down the street to far off in the distance ... with police sirens sounding off all around. The exceptionally awful consequence of such monkey-see-monkey-do mentality were the ambulance sirens. And, having been and EMT for years, I doubt all the patients in the ambulances were drivers.

Each time onscreen performances embolden poor behavior choices such as foul language the one(s) who spoke profanity onscreen not only face(s) the consequences of the sin of cussing (Col. 3:8 and many others), s/he faces the consequences of the sin of emboldening the young who hear him/her to do likewise [Luke 17:2]. Now, the ones who hear it and emulate it must suffer the consequences of the sin of profanity. And so on. It is not good to use profanity at any time, folks. That stuff rolls downhill ... and splatters uphill.

Note that the TVG curse-free filter works very well for this DVD. Aside from the profanity there are a few other matters of impudence/arrogance whether by the characters or on the part of the filmmakers: a son's deceit toward his father; punk attire; intimidation; stalking. [Isa. 13:11]

Sexual Immorality (S) - 32 out of 100
In terms of sexually immoral behaviors and/or imagery, this film presents numerous examples of dressing to maximize the female form and/or skin exposure and excessive cleavage (it was not robots in the movie that exhibited the human physical attributes). There are instances of making out, an implication of transvestism, statue nudity, a vulgar background song and sexual assault. Remember that the CAP analysis model does not care if there is some attempt by the filmmakers to justify by content any displays of sexually immoral behaviors. If it is on the screen, it is annotated. It is up to you to decide whether any trumped up justification exists. Our lives are to be sexually pure and humble. Such examples in and as entertainment routinely corrupt our innate sexual humility, both short-term and long-term, and lead us into compromising wholesome thresholds. Just as Eve was deceived by the serpent, the viewer, especially the impressionable young, may fall prey to corrupt minds about wholesome sexual standards because of the display of sexually immoral behaviors onscreen. [2 Cor. 11:3, Prov. 30:20, Rev. 21:27]

Drugs/Alcohol (D) - 76 out of 100
The only content found that is applicable to this investigation area was the group of surrogates getting "high" on "electric drugs", the "jacking." Whatever the surries felt was sent back to the human user, so this issue was treated as drug consumption and intoxication.

Offense to God (O) - 4 out of 100
Twelve times someone used God's name in vain. However, each use was without the four letter expletive. That the uses of His name in vain did not include the four letter expletive does not excuse using His name in vain. [Deut. 5:11] Use of the four letter expletive with His name makes the expression more of an offense to man but little difference to God since He declared any use of His name in vain as sin. That includes the three-syllable sentence with His name trailing it.

Murder/Suicide (M) - 52 out of 100
While attempted murders are incorporated into the Wanton Violence/Crime investigation area, here is where all demonstrated murders and suicides are incorporated. Two murders and a suicide. One murder of a human was unseen but was imparted adequately enough to be included in the scoring as is the gunfire murder of the real Jennifer Peters by a surrie and the suicide of Dr. Canter by self poisoning. The "killings" of automatons, though quite graphic at times, were not considered murders but were incorporated as killing in the Wanton Violence/Crime investigation area. However, when the killing of a surrie involved the killing of its human host, the death of the human host was considered murder, e.g., the five police officers murdered by the killing of their surries.

A Word about murder -- "thou shalt not" sayeth God. And a word about the suicide -- suicide is murder of the self. [Ex. 20:13]


If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ] or bold. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.


  • Prov. 16:29 A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good. [The issue is the violence, the 'way that is not good' no matter how "small" or "justified" the violence might seem, and its "leading" effect on the observer. "A violent man" can be any character of any age, any gender, human or not in the act of committing (demonstrating in the case of entertainment) violent behavior/action whether for good or evil OR the violent behaviors/actions themselves. Such exposure can and does embolden the viewer into aggression, especially youth. It took years for American professional health community to finally affirm, probably without knowing it, that which God told us in 1 Cor. 15:33 below. See also Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children: Congressional Public Health Summit for more information. Further, God speaks darkly of violence 56 times in the Old and New Testament of the KJV.]
  • Col. 3:8 But now ye also put off [rid yourself of] all these; anger, wrath, malice [kakia: ill-will, desire to injure, wickedness, depravity, evil, trouble, not ashamed to break laws, etc.], blasphemy [blasphemia: impious and reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty], filthy communication [aischrologia:foul speaking, low and obscene speech] out of your mouth.
  • Isa. 13:11 I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
  • 2 Cor. 11:3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
  • Prov. 30:20 This is the way of an adulteress [or adulterer]: She eats and wipes her mouth and says, 'I've done nothing wrong.' [Though this verse uses "adulteress" to make its point, the heart of the matter is the arrogance of "What's the big deal!", "It's okay sometimes" or "It's the 21st century" defense of sexual immorality (or any other wrong-doings). This verse makes an adulter(er/ess) of many filmmakers and performers, thinking they can demonstrate behavioral impurity while thinking they've done no wrong. And no amount of "Yes, buts..." will change the sin of sexually immoral displays and behaviors.]
  • Rev. 21:27 Nothing impure will ever enter it [the holy city - Heaven], nor will anyone [unforgiven] who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
  • Deut. 5:11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain. [Vain is shav {shawv}: emptiness, nothingness, vanity, such as an expletive. With or without the four letter expletive, the use of God's name in any way other than respect, reverence or responsible discussion is in vain. That includes the popular three syllable sentence with His name trailing it AND the misuse of Jesus' name or title. So, trying to excuse such expressions with "I was talking TO God/Jesus when I said that" or It's just words" or "I was acting" will not work with Him.]
  • Ex. 20:13 Thou shalt not kill. (NIV) You shall not murder. ["Kill" is ratsach {raw-tsakh'}: murder, slay, premeditated, to assassinate. Deut. 5:17 repeats this Commandment. By the way, suicide is murder of the self.]

    ***Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry***
  • Jer. 37:9 This is what the LORD says: Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, 'The Babylonians [the destroyers from within] will surely leave us.' They will not!
  • Ps. 12:8 The wicked freely strut about [e.g., create progressively vile/offensive entertainment with impunity and no consequences and present it to younger and younger audiences every year] when what is vile is honored among men [when enough people continue to defend it, embrace it, enjoy it, want it, submit to it. I call attention to Ps. 12:8 to warn of the creeping desensitizing power of "entertainment."]
  • Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man [by his influence] spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 Be not deceived: evil [kakov: of a bad nature, not such as it ought to be] communications corrupt good manners.
  • Rom. 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
  • Jude 1:4 For there are certain men* crept in unawares [secretly slipped in among us], who were before of old ordained to this condemnation [whose condemnation was written about long ago], ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness [a license for immorality], and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
  • Luke 17:2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. [Offend: skandalizo {skan-dal-id'-zo} - scandalize; to entice to sin; to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey; to cause to fall away.]
  • Ps. 119:133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me [let no sin rule over me].
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. ["Evil" includes all things that are sinful.]


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.
    (The objective heart of the CAP Analysis Model, independent of and insulated from the Summary / Commentary section.)

    Surrogates (2009) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W) - Zero out of 100
  • image of inflicting self injury
  • facial gore
  • reckless driving causing motor vehicle-pedestrian collisions (many) with property damage and reckless endangerment
  • weapon fire to kill, repeatedly
  • humanoid decimation gore such as trunk ripped open, severing body top half from bottom half, amputation, electrocution through their eyes and head injuries, repeatedly
  • dead [human] body with gore, repeatedly
  • still photos of human gore
  • sci-fi violence, repeatedly
  • military battle action with "deaths"
  • police pursuit with reckless endangerment and property damage
  • instances of light gore, repeatedly
  • helicopter crash
  • impossible physical feats
  • gunfire to kill with gore
  • civil chaos, rioting
  • cremation of a human body with sights of hair and tissue searing
  • beating, repeatedly
  • poster with decapitated humanoid head in someone's hand
  • gun battle with gunshot injuries
  • police corruption, repeatedly
  • attempted murder by vehicle with much property damage, repeatedly
  • multiple vehicle versus pedestrian collisions
  • pursuit violence
  • attempted murder by gunfire
  • assault
  • threat with firearm, repeatedly
  • dead body with gore
  • hostage at gunpoint
  • gunfire to intimidate
  • attempted murder of billions
  • gunshot through head of humanoid
  • massive property damage

    Impudence/Hate (I) - 44 out of 100
  • 9 uses of profanity
  • son's deceit, taking advantage of father's kindness
  • punk presence
  • intimidation
  • stalking

    Sexual Immorality (S) - 32 out of 100
  • dressing to maximize the female form and/or skin exposure, repeatedly
  • man and woman making out
  • implication of transvestism
  • statue nudity
  • vulgar anatomical reference
  • sexual assault
  • excessive cleavage, repeatedly
  • vulgar background song

    Drugs/Alcohol (D) - 76 out of 100
  • humanoids getting high on "electrical drugs" - jacking - repeatedly

    Offense to God (O) - 4 out of 100
  • 12 uses of God's name in vain, all without the four letter expletive
  • comment to minimize God's omniscience
  • mockery of the Crucifixion

    Murder/Suicide (M) - 52 out of 100
  • unseen murder
  • gunfire murder
  • remote murder of five police officers and one civilian
  • suicide by poisoning

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    There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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