Very Safe Sci-Fi: A Review of ‘Self/Less’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - July 09, 2015
Very Safe Sci-Fi: A Review of ‘Self/Less’

To a man and woman…we are all guilty of at one point or another, just wishing that we had some more time to do…anything.  In Self/Less we get a relatable story of someone who just isn’t ready to die that ultimately just feels a little more safe then it needed to be as he is confronted with the costs of his actions.

Damien (Ben Kingsley) a man of unimaginable wealth and power, just can’t control the fact that he is dying as cancer ravages what is left of his body.  Desperate to keep living, he undergoes a radical medical procedure that transfers his consciousness from his old body into a new healthy body (Ryan Reynolds).  At first, everything appears to be going great but he quickly learns that everything isn’t exactly as it seems as the mysterious origins behind this unique procedure starts to unravel and he learns the real human costs of what he has done and how these people will kill to keep this horrible secret.

Hardly a flawless effort, Self/Less still manages to work as a thriller with a bit of a sci/fi edge even though it ultimately feels like the safest and most reserved moved in the canon of director Tarsem Singh.

Tarsem who is best known for films like The Cell & Immortals is notorious for pushing the visual boundaries and crafting some of the more freakily lush and sumptuous visuals that have been seen in the modern cinema in the past 20+ years.  While he keeps the story moving well enough from beginning to end, the narrative had so many openings for Tarsem to hit us with something optically stunning but instead it all felt incredibly reserved.  Hardly anything bad by any stretch but for a man with the reputation of Tarsem, this all played like a paint by numbers thriller.  It flows well but it never gets that signature stamp and honestly could have been directed by anyone, but still it is a cool concept with some solid performance that help it all go where it needs to.

Ultimately, Ryan Reynolds just doesn’t get enough credit for being able to carry a movie.  He has the movie star swagger and good looks but can also get across the emotional range needed for a character.  As we follow this man who begins the film as a rich, pompous ass we see him evolve as he can’t reconcile the moral costs of what his new lease on life has cost him.  As Dr. Albright, Matthew Goode captures that subtly creepy vibe necessary in a movie like this.  He doesn’t play it over the top and quite frankly he really doesn’t need to.  Calm, cool and collected always makes for a better villain then over the top does any day of the week.  Otherwise no one in this cast really has to do any heavy lifting as Ben Kingsley is barely there and just around to give Reynolds a little more creditability while Natalie Martinez, Victor Garber, Derek Luke, Melora Harden and Michelle Dockery  just don’t have enough to do to resonate.

While Self/Less does have some obvious influences from the likes of John Frankenheimer’s Seconds, it still works as good piece of entertainment but had the filmmakers not played it quite so safe, it could have been a great one.


This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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