“God created man, man created immortality”
“There is no scientific breakthrough without sacrifice.”
These are just some of the reflective thoughts that Self/Less looks to offers us, as we see man attempt to play God and try and take control of their own lives. Self/Less has the perfect premise to be a great sci-fi thriller, but with a heavy handed focus on action, it tends to pack more brawn than brains to become a very entertaining, though at times underwhelming film.
Ben Kingsley plays a ruthless businessman and billionaire Damian Hale who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, which is quickly deteriorating his health. As would be expected, he is struggling to come to terms with the possibility of death and is willing to do whatever it takes to get a further chance at life. He discovers a business card for a man named Professor Albright (Matthew Goode), who introduces him to a medical procedure known as ‘shedding’ i.e. transferring the consciousness of one person into a different genetically grown younger body, played by Ryan Reynolds. Damian decides to fake his death and undergo the procedure so that he can get a new shot at life as Edward Kidner, but when he starts experiencing hallucinations and memories, he begins to realise that his body may not be as new as he thought it was.
Undertaking to try and explore these newfound memories, Damien discovers that the scientific organization that gave him his new life is not as innocent as it seems and is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure their secrets are never discovered. Along the way he meets up with Madeline (Natalie Martinez), a woman whose life – and that of her daughter – he inadvertently puts in danger and has to protect. And this is essentially where the movie takes a different turn from the set up as a potentially gripping sci-fi tale of man taking on the role of God, and instead turns into a rather mainstream action movie.
Director Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall, Mirror Mirror) decides to refrain from his usual flamboyant style and instead sticks to a much more simple and clean direction for this movie. And while the visual style suits the action focus of the movie, it also prevents it from standing out from the myriad of action movies that are offering up a similar thing. He does a solid job with executing many of the scenes, but it all just seems to become too easy for a person whose mind is supposed to be in control of a military trained body.
The script written by David and Alex Pastor builds up a believable character of Damian and provides a solid foundation which kick-starts his quest for immortality. However the development of some of the minor characters is very lacking, particular the main antagonist and the role of Madeline, who is especially uneven, moving from a trusting aide to a person who is suspicious of Damian with little consistency.
The film attempts to offer up deep moral questions of the viewer, but instead relies more on regular action sequences than any deep introspection to pursue this further. For the most part Self/Less is well cast with Kingsley and Reynolds both believable in their individual roles, but this is also part of the problem: they are a little too different from each other to believe that they are one and the same person. And while you don’t get to know Kingsley’s version of the character for long, Reynolds’ version does not seem to fit with the persona that we have previously been introduced to.
But all this is not to say that the movie is not entertaining. The action sequences, while not been breathtaking, are pretty well executed and do enough to keep the viewer suitably distracted, even though you may have to switch off your brain a little bit to just take it all in. The tempo of the movie is also well structured, offering up chances for the writers to at least attempt to engage you into the plot before another set of action sequences kick in. The movie also never runs away with itself and comes to a satisfying conclusion for the main character of Damian.
Overall, Self/less is fun, but pretty generic. What could’ve been the perfect set-up for a sci-fi thriller with an enticing premise that questions the moral quest for immortality, turns into the run-of-the-mill action flick and ultimately, could’ve been so much more.
Last Updated: January 19, 2016