Originally published online at BLUNT Magazine.
2 / 5
If you were offered a second chance at life, would you take it? On his deathbed, billionaire business tycoon Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) is offered the chance to continue living through an experimental medical procedure called “shedding”, in which his consciousness will be transferred into a much younger, artificially grown body (Ryan Reynolds). But this procedure isn’t all that it seems, as Hale begins to suffer from vivid hallucinations, leading him to believe that the new body he inhabits might not be as artificial as he thought. It’s an interesting take on the ethical dilemma of immortality, that’s unfortunately executed in the most boring way possible.
Everything about Self/Less is underwhelming and unimaginative. From its formulaic plot, stock characters to even its lame title (it’s a Dad-tier level pun). It well overstays its welcome with its too-long runtime – you can nod off twice during and it’ll still be going when you wake up. Director Tarsem Singh is no stranger to mind-bending subject matters having helmed the criminally underrated psychological thriller The Cell, but instead of taking a wild, stylish approach he opts for the most lacklustre route possible. To call Self/Less a thriller would do a disservice to the genre, as it implies it’s actually thrilling in the first place. Singh’s usual directorial flair and stunning visuals are nowhere to be seen here.
The film’s biggest flaw is that its lead character lacks any likeability. It’s hard to empathise with the dying Hale – after all, he’s a billionaire businessman, so to say he’s been living a hard life would be an underestimation. And it’s even harder to connect with him once he undergoes the procedure, as the young Hale spends all of his time partying hard and having sex. Admittedly, that lack of empathy is supposed to be part of the character’s evolution, as he stops being selfish and learns to become selfless (do you get the hilarious pun title now?). By the time Hale actually learns this lesson and decides to stop being a garbage person, it’s a matter of too little, too late for the audience.
Self/Less is a direly boring film. What could have been an interesting take on the ethics and price of immortality unfortunately devolves into a stock-standard action film that drags on and on. It lacks any form of memorability, from both the director and the cast. It’s an inanely predictable sci-fi film, whose twist and conclusion are so obvious from the get-go that it invalidates watching the movie in the first place. In the hands of a more capable director and a smarter script, Self/Less could have been something better. Instead, it’s a memory that’ll quickly fade to the back your mind before you forget about it completely.