Brilliant plot that suffers from traditional shoot-em-up tropes. Self/less promotes itself as a psychological thriller but pulls the ol’ bait ‘n switch by giving the audience a generic semi-thriller with a lot of superficial gun battles. This is one of those films that there was so much potential with moral/ethical dilemmas baked into the plot; but instead of delivering a well-crafted dynamic movie, the audience is left wanting so much more than was served. Ideally, casting British film royalty like Ben Kingsley should increase the appeal and class of a film; but it turns out that any generic older and distinguishing-looking actor could have been cast. Ryan Reynolds proves to live up to his reputation for playing similar roles, and you get lots of shots of his gorgeous face and body; however, his looks just aren’t enough to cary this weak film. Although this movie has been out for a little while, I decided to watch it because of the plot. I probably would have been better off watching Minions.
Self/less is about a well-respected and enormously successful developer in New York City named Damian Hale (Kingsley) who is struggling with rapidly growing cancer. He and his partner Martin (Victor Garber) go to lunch in New Orleans one afternoon, and Damian has a severe allergic reaction to something in the food or coffee and falls over dead–or so we think. Turns out that it was all a setup to get him to the secret neurological research lab of Dr. Albright (Matthew Goode) in order to take part in a new method called “shedding.” This is the process by which the mind of the living is transferred to the brain of another body. Not long after the successful procedure, Damian, now known as Edward (Reynolds), begins to receive flashes of a not-so-distant past that cause him mental pain. Thanks to drugs prescribed by Dr. Albright, the visions are supposed to slowly mitigate. Unknown to Albright, Edward begins to suspect there is something wrong and will stop at nothing to solve the mystery of the distant, vague memories.
Movies about man’s lust for immortality are nearly as old as the medium of cinema itself. But, there are definitely far superior examples of this plot. When the previews first came out for this movie, I was definitely intrigued to see it. I should have known something was up when the movie has been out and I heard no one talking about it. Between Inside Out and The Gallows I totally missed the release date of Self/less. This should have been my canary in the coal mine sign. Prior to watching the movie, I wasn’t expecting a dynamic riveting experience, because this similar plot was used in the film The Island (2005) directed by Michael Bay–perhaps our film in question would have benefitted from his skill for superficial visual storytelling–after all, that is pretty well what we got anyway. The Island is about wealthy or desperate donors who sponsor clones of themselves in order to harvest parts as theirs breakdown. Some of the same ethical and moral dilemmas exist in both films. However, Self/less has a much better platform for really diving into these topics and exploring all the possibilities. Unfortunately, it is basically a popcorn movie.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet….just wait for it to come out on Netflix. I am sure it won’t be too long before that happens. In the event you just like Ryan Reynolds, you may find enjoyment in this film, but all the acting is quite sub-par for even this hybrid sub-genre of action/psychological/thriller.