So I watched Self/less…
From time to time you get movies that are the definition of the word ‘average’. They don’t thrill, nor do they excite, they don’t even bore. They elicit no emotions from you. All they do is keep you engaged for an hour or two and as soon as you’ve stood up from your chair, they’re gone from your memory. This is one of those movies.
Okay, basic plot: Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) is a billionaire property mogul who is on his deathbed suffering from cancer. His life seems all but lost until he’s informed of a radical medical procedure called ‘shedding’ that allows a person to transfer their consciousness from their ailing body into an artificially-grown human host – an empty vessel (Ryan Reynolds). Hale takes the opportunity and relishes at the second chance at life that he’s been given. But soon after the shedding process, he begins having hallucinations and learns that these hallucinations are actually memories. His new body isn’t as empty as he was led to believe and its true origin could lead to him losing everything.
This movie feels like a cross between 2012’s Total Recall and 2005’s The Island. There’s nothing in this movie that you haven’t seen somewhere else. Rich guy looking to evade death gets new body through some kind of poorly-explained science; he thinks the body is an empty vessel, it isn’t and luckily, the person who used to live in the body has some kind of fight training and these reflexes make the guy into Jason Bourne. There aren’t any twists or surprises in the way the film plays out. You see how every little thing is going to end up from the very first minute and all you have to do is just sit there and let it happen. There’s nothing engaging or exciting about this movie. It’s story is cliche and predictable and the little action in this movie is sub-par and handled with no imagination.
The story also never quite decides what it wants to be. In parts it tries to be an action movie but a really dull one. It also tries to pose philosophical questions about what would you do to continue your life? Would you take a life for your own life? But, unfortunately, the movie doesn’t fully commit to either part and delivers a whole lot of nothing in the end.
Ryan Reynolds’ performance is unsure and lacking confidence – it seems like he never knows what he’s meant to be doing or who he’s meant to be playing. There’s meant to be a dual quality to the persona of Reynolds’ character: physically, he looks like a thirty-year-old but he also has the mental character of the seventy-year-old Damian Hale. Reynolds doesn’t do a good job balancing these two elements of the character. He never feels like he’s an old man and doesn’t bring the spirit of Ben Kingsley’s side of the character across and this leads to the character feeling rather vapid. I really enjoyed Matthew Goode’s acting in this film, he plays Professor Albright who is the scientist that invented the process of shedding. I wish he had been in this movie more because the give-and-take between him and Reynolds was one of the best components of the film. Derek Luke is another actor who needed more screentime in this movie. Luke stars as Anton, a friend that Hale makes during his new life.
I think I spent the majority of this movie waiting for something to happen. Waiting for the action and then when the action did show up, I found myself waiting for it to be amazing. Self/less never hits the pace or gets into the gear that it needs to be an exciting action movie. It does the bare minimal and is neither overly entertaining or engaging, all it does is pacify you for the length of its runtime and when you leave the theatre, you feel like you haven’t lost nor gained anything. It isn’t worth a trip to the cinema but watching it at home wouldn’t be worst way to spend two hours. 6/10