July 13, 2015

Movie Review: Self/Less

Here is a movie that does not appear to be going anywhere at the box office. Despite having a decent hook and cast, the advertising has been non-existent, and despite a top ten opening weekend, it seems likely that it will fade into obscurity with relative ease and quickness. Now, is Self/Less deserving of that fate? Not really, at least not that quickly. The movie is moderately entertaining, moves at a good pace and is just a decent time at the theater. It does not really have legs for any long term success, but that doesn't make it any less entertaining.



Self/Less was directed by Tarsem Singh, a fact I did not know until the end credits. He is an interesting director who started his big screen career with The Cell, a movie featuring Jennifer Lopez that I do not mind. He followed that up with The Fall. Over the past few years he has been moving more and more to the mainstream, culminating with this science fiction tinged thriller. The writing duties were handled by the team of Alex Pastor and David Pastor. They were the the writing/directing team behind the 2009 thriller Carriers, which was actually pretty good.


This movie starts off by introducing us to Damian (Ben Kingsley), a ruthless businessman who is dying of cancer and has just mere months to live. Fortunately, he has been told of shedding, a secret doctor (Matthew Goode) who is performing the procedure. Basically, they grow a young body in a lab and transfer the mind from the dying person into the new young body. They become a new person, but they have all of their old memories and experiences with the added bonus of being able to continue their work. So Damian goes through the procedure and becomes Edward (Ryan Reynolds), a much younger person who is able to enjoy the finer things in life again.

What they don't tell you is that the bodies were not actually grown, but is actually another person that was either taken or who donated their body for some reason or other. If you don't take your “medicine” (that looks like the candy Hot Tamales), the other persons memories will bleed into yours. So, the movie asks the question “at what price would you grasp for immortality?” Sure, it is an interesting question, but it is really just a cursory glance at the start of the movie.


For the big science fiction elements that are here, it just isn't what the movie is about. I think that is a bit of a mistake, as there is enough of it here to cloud what the real story is about. There should have been a strong angle one way or the other, or at least a better blending of the elements. Sure, I was entertained and generally liked the movie, but it could have been something more.

So what is the movie about? It is about personal redemption. Original right? You see, Damian was something of an absentee father to his now grown daughter. Now, the memory flashes from his new body have given him an idea. Since he cannot undo what he did, perhaps there is another way to correct the business driven life he led and recognize the importance of family and having people to care about and who care about you.


That pretty much sums up the movie. It is entertaining and well acted. It has some good ideas, it just never really goes full on in either direction. It does not hurt that it meanders around some in the middle with a couple of montages leading up to the revelations. It is not a bad movie, just unfocused. I still see this as a movie worth seeing, once. It has the ideas if not the execution. Enjoyable, but not memorable.

Mildly Recommended.


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