Director: Tarsem Singh
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Sir Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode
Genre: Sci-fi Thriller
They say money can’t buy you happiness, but in Self/less it can buy you life. At first it seems millionaire property tycoon Damian Hayes (played by Sir Ben Kingsley) has it all: money, power and respect. But when he finds out he has terminal cancer, he realises he that he can’t take any of it to the grave.
You would expect to feel some sympathy for a lonely dying old man but Sir Ben expertly portrays Damian as a being a cruel and greedy business man. Early on, Damian ruthlessly sabotages a younger competitor’s career because he took offence to the way he pursued a contract. Then he tries to rebuild his fractured relationship with his daughter Claire who wants nothing to do with him or the money he is offering her.
Fearing that his legacy will be quickly forgotten Damian jumps at the chance to start over again when a business card is anonymously given to him. The business card leads him to a mysterious lab owned by Professor Albright (Mathew Goode) who tells Damian that he can transfer his conscience into a new genetically manufactured body – in a process called “shedding”.
With nothing to lose, he agrees to Albright’s offer without hesitation and when he wakes up from the procedure he finds himself in a younger, leaner body. The new and improved Damian, now played by Ryan Reynolds, is given medication to smooth things over and relocates to New Orleans.
All this takes place in the first forty-five minutes or so and makes for very compelling viewing. Director Tarsem Singh creates an intriguing set up which leaves you fascinated to see how the story pans out.
Unfortunately after a certain important revelation, Self/less loses steam as it fails to deliver on its promising start. It’s not that you don’t care about what happens in the film, it’s just you don’t care as much as you thought you would.
Self/less relies on the typical thriller conventions of car chases, gun fights and plot twists to attempt to keep viewers interested. While you may enjoy seeing these all these things unfold, there’s nothing there which is particularly memorable or exciting (maybe apart from a cheeky flamethrower).
All the cast are on good form as Sir Ben kicks things off with a gripping performance as an older Damian. When Reynolds takes over, his natural charm and charisma make him enjoyable to watch. But (and this is kind-of-a-big but) there are no similarities between Sir Ben’s and Reynolds’ Damians. While Reynolds does entertain you, at no point do you ever really feel that you’re watching Sir Ben’s mind in his body. The film would have benefited well if there had been more of a connection between the two performances. Matthew Goode and Natalie Martinez should also be given credit for their roles as performances as the sinister scientist Albright and the apparent widower Madeline.
Despite its fascinating original concept, Self/less doesn’t quite reach its full potential. Still, it’s a definitely a watchable film and scores a: