The first thing I noticed about Self/less was how good it looked. Because I’d only read that it was another in the long list of Ryan Reynolds-starring box office failures, I kept waiting for it to go off the rails. So the second thing I noticed was how effortlessly engaging this movie was.
This is director Tarsem Singh’s most reality-oriented movie and that is saying a lot when you consider that the central idea in this film is the introduction of a technology called ‘shedding’ that permits an ageing individual to shed his (or her) failing body and live another lifetime in a younger fitter body that has been grown in a lab.
That is the offer made to dying real estate mogul Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) by a man named Albright (Matthew Goode). So naturally Damian pays up, fakes his own death, and wakes up in the body of Ryan Reynolds. And as any 68-year-old who’s been given a new lease of life would, Damian works out his new body through a rigorous schedule of partying and hooking up with nubile young things. Until the weird flashes that have troubled him since he entered this new body start to make him wonder about the woman and the little girl he sees in those visions.
Before long Damian realizes that nothing is free, even when you’ve paid 250 million dollars for it, and that the body he’s inhabiting was not actually grown in a lab.
Self/less is a competent sci-fi thriller that takes the wish fulfillment idea of extending a life with the help of a younger, fitter body to smart new places. Once you’ve bought in to the central idea of the movie nothing happens to take you out of the scenario. The action scenes are well executed and Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Goode do a good job of portraying the monster becoming aware of itself and the scientist who will go to any extreme to protect his creation, and his way of life. The script by David and Àlex Pastor is tight and features enough calls back to lines spoken earlier in the movie that help the central character when things get really tough, as they must in any decent movie.
Final Analysis: Self/less is the type of movie that is best enjoyed from the comfort of one’s home or the discomfort of an airline seat during a long flight—hell, I’d probably rewind and watch it again if the flight was long enough—so it isn’t a big surprise that the movie did terribly at the box office. It is just not a movie that needs to be seen on the big screen.
My Advice: If this movie turns up in your Netflix menu, or on cable during an afternoon channel surf, check it out. It is a decent way to pass a couple of hours.