Skip to main content

Movie Review: Self/Less (2015)

Runtime: 117 minutes
Rated: PG-13
Director: Tarsem Singh
Writers: David Pastor, Alex Pastor
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, 
Matthew Goode, Natalie Martinez, Victor Garber
Immortality is, ultimately, the bottom line consideration when assessing the quality of a movie, at least in most cases. And in the case of Self/Less, it is exactly such a case. Movies mean as much as they do to us because they are patterns, fictional simulations of how we would (and should?) act when faced with moral imperatives or dangerous encounters. That is why they interest us--because they help us further define ourselves. 

The film is, in large part, an action-thriller, but also doubles as a romance. Not to leave anything out, it touches on moral considerations that affect us all. Screenwriters David Pastor and Alex Pastor have gone way out of their way to construct a powerful story in which the human brain of a successful business tycoon is transferred into a younger, healthier body. With director Tarsem Singh manning the helm, this ship goes into some mightily soul-searching areas.

Some might consider it a pretty tall order to have Ben Kingsley transforming into anyone resembling Ryan Reynolds, but if that bothers you, it will be almost twice as difficult to imagine Kingsley's miserly character, who is on death’s doorstep from terminal cancer, as a non-cutthroat person with a strong sense of morals and compassion in Reynolds’ character. 

Putting aside these issues, audiences will watch with intense fascination as the wealthy Damian, surrounded by lavish gold and opulence, pays $250,000,000 to a secret biogenic corporation (headed by Matthew Goode as “Albright”) for a body swap—or, as it is termed in the film, “shedding,” like a snake. But, “death has some side effects,” so says Albright mysteriously. This he tells the newly re-made Damian about potential rejection complications, which begin to manifest in what are at first thought to be just hallucinations and distorted visions. 

Through these perceived hallucinations, Damian is led to seek out “Madeline” (Natalie Martinez) and her young daughter (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen—a wonderfully effective child actress, by the way). The small romantic element that begins to build between the two is slow to win us over, but finally gets us on board, thanks largely to Martinez’ ability to emote well, thereby making us feel her sense of shock and heartbreak.

One other subplot concerns Damian's estranged daughter “Claire” (Michelle Dockery). This is one of those elements that you see coming from way away, although the resolution is one of the least satisfying things about the film, hands down. 

Right along with its thick sci-fi underpinnings, this one is a thriller all the way to the bottom. Great shoot-outs, good hand-to-hand takedowns, and some very vivid car chases take Self/Less up a notch or three. With Singh’s attention to detail, we are not left to use our imaginations very much. No one can say any part of this is boring!

Reynolds is as charming and convincing in his role as you’d expect, but his nemesis, Goode, is a bit much to handle. He handily outclasses the bizarreness of even the most audacious James Bond villain. 

There are some stretches by way of plot believability with certain twists seeming to be on the far side of unlikely, but these are not hard to put out of our minds. Most of viewers' concerns are vested in putting themselves in the shoes of Damian who is facing a predicament that has simply not been faced since...Frankenstein? How would you handle being caught between two lives in one body? 

Self/Less is a jarring and very entertaining watch. Even with all that it tries to take on and with merely decent acting and some hit-or-miss dramatic components, the film can be called a neat-and-tidy success. It’s shortcomings do fairly little to detract from its positive, inner-reflective qualities on the subject of mortality and the value of human life.


Popular posts from this blog

When Jesus Turns Down the Glory: 10 Worst Ever Christian Songs

It’s a sad testimony when even the creator of a thing realizes that the product isn’t what it was intended to be. Well, actually it’s a good thing. It just doesn’t happen often enough. The Christian music industry is, shall we say, not up to par with where its admirers (and even creators and ardent well-wishers) would hope it would be. And when even the average believer realizes that their music is not market-cornering stuff, all should know that there is a problem.

Now not all Christian music sucks (you might even find a few rock songs from artists like Petra on Joe Holman’s ipod that he still sometimes listens to and enjoys), but what makes the stuff that does suck suck is that what sucks sucks for a number of different reasons. We begin the countdown going from best of the worst to absolute worst...

The Top 5 Most Powerful Beings in Sci-fi (Part I of II)

It’s a subject that is rarely tackled in any form outside of random questions on a message board, but here we will devote a sensible examination of it. Who – what – is the most powerful being anywhere in every realm of sci-fi or fantasy ever dreamt up by a finite human being? I’ve been contemplating this subject since I was 8 years old. At 39, it hasn’t left my mind. That means several things; (1) I’m a fucking geek. (2) I’ve invested enough of my life pondering this for it to qualify as an obsession.

As with all “Most” anything lists, we are faced with several problems, one of them being limited source material. A couple of these only made one or two brief appearances somewhere and that is all we have to go by. But sometimes, those situations let our imaginations go into overdrive and give us even more creative fun. The mystery tends to add to the experience of contemplation.

The Top 5 Most Powerful Beings in Sci-fi (Part II of II)

#1) The Douwds – From Star Trek The Next Generation

Claim to fame: This Douwd went from pacifist to mass murderer of 50 billion in a single moment of anger. He appears to hold the record for most murders in all of sci-fi.
Abilities: Just about unlimited.
Nature: True immortals.

Our winner, debatably edging out number #2, is a mysterious race of beings called the Douwds. We only get to meet one of their kind in a single episode (#51, season 3 - see the condensed version here) called “The Survivors.” It was one of the very best of any season. What little we know of this illusive race “of disguises and false surroundings” only adds to our fascination with them.

When the Enterprise gets an urgent distress call from a federation colony on Delta Rana IV about an attacking alien warship, they head over as fast as they can, but they are days away. By the time they arrive, it is too late. All are dead and the planet has been literally leveled…with the sole exception of one house and the small pa…