Self/less (2015)
Self/less (2015)

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.

Release Date: July 10th, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Tarsem Singh Actors: Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Martinez, Matthew Goode, Ben Kingsley, Victor Garber, Derek Luke, Melora Hardin, Michelle Dockery, Emily Tremaine

 


 

A

ging billionaire industrialist Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) finds his legacy quickly fading with the onslaught of terminal cancer. Desperate for a solution, he turns to the enigmatic Dr. Albright (Matthew Goode) and his lure of a radical new “shedding” process at Phoenix Biogenetics, which might just grant him an extension on life. Upon completing the experimental procedure, Damian awakens in a younger, healthier body (Ryan Reynolds), discarding his stuffy professional demeanor to engage in reckless carnalities. But after experiencing vivid hallucinations of someone else’s past, Damian begins searching for clues to uncover the origins of his surrogate frame – all while mysterious forces work to permanently halt his investigation.

Damian starts as a cancerous old man in body and spirit, using his shrewd yet cruelly gotten gains to obtain a certain unworthy longevity – the kind that ought to be accursed. And, as it turns out, the supposedly genetically engineered, empty vessel of organic tissue actually originates from a more sinister means of sacrificial, manipulative harvesting, which viewers can only assume would give Damian extra satisfaction. If a random person had to die to allow the cold business tycoon a second chance at life, then so much the better. When he finally utters the incompatible line, “I never wanted others to suffer,” the movie has long since assumed that audiences have sided with the severe senior in the body of a handsome hero – who, not long prior, opens the movie with specifically uncharitable deeds.

And yet, what should have been a tale of slowly uncorrupting a callous, wayward soul becomes a standard sci-fi body-swapping yarn full of obligatory action sequences and one understated yet spectacular car chase. Rather than taking the horror movie route, this poorly titled thriller opts for a touch of levity through montages that hope to shift the perspective of Kingsley’s unfeeling Hale to that of Reynold’s lively, understanding Damian, even though they’re the exact same persona. In an instant, viewers are expected to sympathize with this new character (something of a prisoner in an alien environment), as if he’s innocent not only of inspiring unintentional harm to his adoptive family, but also of a life of valuing money and achievements over participating meaningfully in his daughter’s upbringing.

As for the mystery, the very first hallucination sequence gives it all away. The memory suppression medication doesn’t gradually fail in order to let in flashback-type clues, but instead floods the screen with all the pertinent information. The guesswork is immediately finished. And, while the film hopes to be a thinking man’s science-fiction piece, with the moral complexities of assimilating minds and reconnecting with estranged figures, many moments go straight for action-packed shootouts or fistfights. The scientific stuff is subtle, the adventure and familial drama are intermittent, and the pacing is casual or deliberately unhurried, marking a balancing act that is far from cohesive. There’s a surprising amount of good ideas lurking in this routine sci-fi scenario, but the assembly is conflicted at best.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10