Surrogates (2009) – Disconnecting the Internet

It is rare to come across a piece of cinema that actually engages with the internet as a cultural phenomenon.  When the net first crept into our lives, films such as Irwin Winkler’s The Net (1995) saw it as a disturbing and demonic presence that seemed poised to erode our freedoms and generally smash our civilisation like Alaric the Visigoth.  Even those rare films that tried to accept the internet as fact of our day-to-day lives struggled to achieve anything close to technological verisimilitude.  Who remembers the real-time email exchanges in Robert Zemeckis’ Contact (1997)?  Or the computer viruses with expensive-looking graphics in Iain Softley’s otherwise charming Hackers (1995)?  When Hollywood finally bit the bullet and represented the net in positive terms, it was mainly due to similarities between aspects of online communication and older, more established technologies.  This trend is particularly obvious in the work of Nora Ephron whose You’ve Got Mail (1998) remade the great Ernst Lubitsch’s story of anonymous letter-writing The Shop Around The Corner (1940), while her most recent film Julie & Julia (2009) links together the story of Julia Childs writing her first cookbook with a 21st Century woman blogging about cookery.  Jonathan Mostow’s Surrogates in no way signals the end of Hollywood’s deep ambivalence about the internet, but it does at least know enough about the net for some of its criticisms to hit home.

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