Directed by Tarsem Singh.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Matthew Goode, Ben Kingsley, Natalie Martinez, and Victor Garber.
An extremely wealthy man, dying from cancer, undergoes a radical medical procedure that transfers his consciousness into the body of a healthy young man. But all is not as it seems when he starts to uncover the mystery of the body’s origin and the organization that will kill to protect its cause.
Self/less is one of those films that wants to be one thing, unfortunately is another thing, and as a result is two ideas clashing leaving behind a fragmented mess of a movie. Typically movies like this were usually always destined to be terrible but Self/less had the potential to be a provocative science-fiction thriller. The problem is that the science-fiction part (and pretty much everything interesting about the story) are ditched for an onslaught of generic action scenes, a villain whose motivations aren’t explored enough, gaps in logic with how our protagonist operates, and a boatload of nonsense that will have you retracing the movie in your head in hopes to pinpoint just where everything went south.
The opening 30 minutes of Self/less are very engaging and establish a number of ideas regarding the science and technology on display; in other words there is some great world building. We get a brief insight into Damien (played by both Ben Kingsley and Ryan Reynolds) and what is driving him to essentially purchase a new body (this is done through a process called Shedding, where consciousness is transferred from one body to another) and live a life of immortality. There are also glimpses of his failures as a father in spite of his success as a businessman. The idea behind Self/less, which is to preserve the life of the world’s greatest visionaries, is nothing short of stimulating, raising many interesting questions in relation to the society we live in.
From there it is very clear that the writers had no idea how to keep up that forward momentum of intelligence, unable to build off of their premise to reach a climax that delivers a bold statement about life. Damien begins having hallucinations (which are admittedly stylistically directed and always a pleasure to witness) of a past life, and as a surprise to no one begins to uncover that the organization behind the science has misguided intentions. Yawn.
Self/less devolves into a series of mundane action sequences and car chases that feel like they belong in a different movie. None of them are memorable at all except for one moment during a late-night car chase where Ryan Reynolds becomes a wizard at vehicular takedowns, flipping over three cars at once. It’s completely ridiculous but considering there is so much forgettable violence it’s nice to have at least one scene that stands out.
The biggest problem with Self/less though is that Damien becomes infatuated with helping out a family he doesn’t know when he could be using his regained youth to reconcile with his daughter. Beyond all of the science mumbo-jumbo is ultimately a story about family and being there as a parent, but it becomes hard to buy into because Damien’s motivations seem to switch at an instant. His original purpose for going through with the procedure was to preserve his mind but immediately after orientation for his new body he’s out partying nonstop banging a different woman every night. Simply put, the protagonist is horribly written.
It really is hard to entirely loathe Self/less however considering that many summer blockbusters are either remakes or reboots without a single original idea to be found. This film at least tries to do something refreshing and has some nice visual aesthetics to go along with it, but the execution is botched because of a script full of characters that don’t act the way they should, absurd plot twists, a boring villain in dire need of development, and your standard run-of-the-mill fight scenes that you can witness anywhere else. Self/less is a movie with ideas that are disappointingly traded in for a series of bland action sequences.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook