UK Release Date: 17th July 2015
Runtime: 117 minutes
Director: Tarsem Singh
Writer: David Pastor, Àlex Pastor
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Martinez, Matthew Goode, Ben Kingsley, Derek Luke, Victor Garber
Synopsis: A wealthy, dying businessman pays to have his consciousness transferred into a younger body, but discovers it comes with some major baggage.
When trailers for Self/less started to appear, I was immediately intrigued by its high concept. The notion of the rich being able to move themselves into new bodies to avoid death is incredibly interesting and, coupled with a resurgent Ryan Reynolds in the lead role, spelled success. However, the eventual film is something of a disappointment.
Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) is a billionaire property tycoon, dying as a result of cancer. He is directed towards Professor Albright (Matthew Goode), who performs a process known as “shedding” in which consciousness can be transferred into a younger, engineered body. Living as Edward (Reynolds), Hale experiences hallucinations that suggest there may be more to the surgery than Albright originally explained.
There is great promise to Self/less and great potential in its idea. However, in the hands of director Tarsem Singh, the film becomes a bland and conventional chase thriller. Rather than battles of the mind, Self/less deals in gunshots and flying bullets, substituting depth for noise and bluster.
| "There is no science – no progress – without sacrifice."
Ryan Reynolds does do a decent job in the lead role, but he looks bored after more interesting recent work like The Voices and Woman in Gold. Self/less never asks Reynolds to get out of first gear and so he duly limps through the film, alongside Natalie Martinez, whose character is barely fleshed out beyond the simple fact that she’s a mother. It’s only Matthew Goode who emerges unscathed, elaborating on the unsettling villainy he showed in Stoker.
Self/less is content to meander between action set pieces, dragged along by seemingly dozens of rug-pulling plot twists. None of these twists pack much of a dramatic impact and the characters largely seem to take them in their stride, simply running to the next set piece. In fact, all they ever seem to do is run.
The film is also far too long. At the most, this is a 90-minute thriller, but the narrative here is extended to almost two hours. Self/less really could’ve benefited from some tighter plotting and a leaner runtime – if only to cut out a little of the endless running.
| "Immortality has some side effects."
Throughout Self/less, it’s difficult to ever separate yourself from the notion that this could have been a genuinely excellent film. However, emerging in the midst of summer, there’s clearly an insecurity about the movie, which drives it squarely into the path of running around and shooting about things.
Pop or Poop?
Self/less is about two or three script drafts away from being a tense, interesting thriller with ideas rather than action at its heart.
The talented cast are squandered and the action scenes are dully unimaginative. It’s always a shame to see an interesting idea wasted by a filmmaker more interested in loud noises.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.