Director Tarsem Singh’s has a rather eclectic mix of films to his name, the last of which was the quirky re-working of the Snow White fairy tale in Mirror Mirror. Now, he has taken an entirely different tack with his latest movie Self/less, an action/drama with an intriguing sci-fi premise. Ben Kingsley stars as Damian, an incredibly wealthy old man whose health is rapidly disintegrating after being diagnosed with cancer. Having received an anonymous tip-off, Damian is put in touch with Dr Albright (Matthew Goode) who specialises in a secret a highly-expensive procedure called “shedding”, which involves transferring the mind from one body to another.
As his only option for survival, Damian’s opts to have his mind placed inside a new, young body (Ryan Reynolds), which has been grown in the lab. But there’s something not quite right about the science behind this procedure, and Albright is harbouring a secret that could prove fatal to the newly resurrected Damian.
While this film starts off with an interesting idea, when things start to heat up, Singh starts to employ all of the conventions of your average action film that we’ve already seen time and time again. The first half of Self/less is great – it’s filmed and edited in a way that’s very engaging and mysterious, one that allows the audience to put things together for themselves rather than spelling everything out so obviously for them. As per usual, Reynolds puts on a great show and Matthew Goode brings out a surprisingly sinister side of himself that we often don’t get to see. But when the plot really starts to pick up the pace, things start to take an unfortunate turn for the cliche.
While I am a fan of a good car chase and an explosion here and there, I was disappointed to see it in this case. I just felt the film had so much potential in the beginning, but the substance slowly petered out as the action got more unrealistic, the character’s decisions more unbelievable, and human life so glibly expendable, as is the case with so many action movies. What could have been an compelling and unique take on the future of science became too far-fetched to really get on board with.
However, if you do like your science-fiction with an action twist, then Self/less is a valiant effort. If only the filmmakers relied more on the original premise than the action-visuals, they could have had a real winner on their hands.
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