Director: Tarsem Singh
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode, Natalie Martinez, Victor Garber, Derek Luke
Written by: David Pastor and Alex Pastor
Running Time: 117 mins
Release date: 17th July 2015
I am very frustrated with Self/less. Here we have a film with an interesting premise that no one has a clue what to do with. So instead of examining the idea, they turn it into another mundane, run-of-the-mill chase thriller. What a waste! This could have been the surprise of the year. Instead, it will probably just disappear among the other mundane, run-of-the-mill chase thrillers that didn’t have any decent ideas in the first place.
Damien Hale is a New York real estate mogul who is dying. With his body riddled with cancer, he is introduced to a radical new medical procedure called Shredding, in which his consciousness is transferred into the body of genetically grown “empty vessel”, a body of a younger, healthier man. Taking up the idea, Hale is given a new identity by its creator, Professor Albright, along with pills that he has to take regularly. However, when he misses a dosage, he starts to see another life. Can Albright really be trusted? Is his new body really a genetic experiment?
The premise throws up a series of moral questions: should we be playing God with our own mortality? Should we believe in everything that we are being sold by the medical profession? These are just some of the issues that I thought the film could deal with on its journey. Instead, director Tarsem Singh, who has given us some visual flair in his previous films, The Cell and Immortals, delivers a straight-down-the-line thriller where no moral questioning is even approached.
We watch as the younger Damien discovers the truth about the body he is now occupying, which is interesting for the first 40 minutes or so and then it gives up the ghost and heads down car chases, shoot-outs and the usual fare that exists in every thriller. Whats more, it becomes increasingly contrived as Damien finds out the truth about the shedding experiments and we become increasingly frustrated that this isn’t another film altogether.
Ryan Reynolds, who is currently flavour of the month with his forthcoming Deadpool project, gives us his usual steady performance as the young Damien, while Ben Kingsley is hardly given anything to do within the first 15 minutes then disappears from the film altogether. Downtown Abbey’s Michelle Dockerty makes a brief appearance as Hale’s estranged daughter but her part all too brief.
Which leaves us with Matthew Goode as Professor Albright, leading the charge in the acting stakes. With his purposeful “habit” and that ice-cold English persona, Goode is at the least the most watchable thing in this whole clichéd mess and given a better script, he could be the new super villain in some Hollywood blockbuster.
Self/less is a wasted opportunity. A film that has such a strong premise that is so badly underdeveloped, with a strong cast left languishing and given very little to do. A sci-fi classic could have been in the making. Instead this will be long forgotten in a few weeks time.