Self/less Review


Director Tarsem Singh has produced several feature films with mixed results. This includes films like The Cell and The Fall been prime examples. Singh also has a talent for visual flair, crafting movies with interesting cinematography pieces like The Immortals (a movie fashioned and similar to Zack Snyder’s 300) and the fairy tale Snow White reimagining in the film Mirror, Mirror. Trying to rise from the level of mediocrity, Singh’s newest theatrical film Self/less tries to change his status-quo of filmmaking. Does this movie breathe new life or is it a failed mind-swap misadventure?


Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) has dedicated his life to his business, building a billion dollar empire from the ground up. Yet, despite his absorbent amount of wealth and luxury, Damian can’t stop the cancer that’s taking hold of his body, inching ever so closer towards his death. Looking for options to sustain his life, Damian discovers “Shedding”, a secretive experimental procedure run by the enigmatic Dr. Albright (Mathew Goode), who transplants a client’s conscious mind into a new body vessel via a magnetized machine. With the procedure done, Damian awakenings in his new body (Ryan Reynolds) and quickly begins to indulge in opportunity of making friends and bedding women. However, his dream of a blissful younger life is shattered when he begins to develop crypt headaches of hallucinations, leaving Damian baffled with visions of being in the military and life with a wife (Natalie Martinez) and daughter (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen). Drawn to the conclusion that his new body actually belonged to someone else, Damian sets out to find answers, forcing Albright to send men to hunt his rogue transplant from uncovering the truth.


I haven’t seeing Singh’s earlier works (The Cell and The Fall) and neither did I watched The Immortals, though I did hear about it and read several reviews of the movie. Caught up in all the fairy tale resurgence, I did see Mirror, Mirror and, while it had some unique visuals and story elements, found it to be simply okay, preferring the other Snow White film (Snow White & the Huntsman better). Since I go to the movies (a lot), I kept on seeing the trailer for Self/less and found its sci-fi premise to be curious; enough for me say that I want to see the movie when it came out in theaters. Unfortunately, Self/less is a bland endeavor that runs a good idea into the ground with average cinematic aspects of drama thrills.

For the first half of the movie (or roughly 30-40 minutes of it), Self/less is pretty interesting. Its concept of “shedding” is very interesting, one that keeps you (the viewer) invested in Albright’s procedure as you watch Damian undergo the change from Kingsley to Reynolds. The movie begins to falter about halfway through the movie, loses its interest and transforms into a generic thriller, complete with tasteless action that consist of car chases, shootouts, and one or two flamethrower encounters. As mentioned above, Singh has knack for visuals and cinematography nuances. That’s not the case in Self/less, which relies too much on its premise, and lets the movie’s pacing, its characters, and its narrative fall between the cracks; leaving an unimpressive and unimaginative feature in its wake. Even the film’s third act, where the events of the story climax, feels rushed and lack anything of excitement. I have to say that its ending is somewhat good, but, after enduring a film that’s so poorly executed, its meaningful conclusion is extremely deflated.

Ben Kingsley is a great and talented actor, but is only in the film for the first 15 minute and given a brief appearance as the old and sickly business mogul Damian. From there, it switches over to Ryan Reynolds’s portrayal of Damian, who turns a more dynamic performance in the character. Reynolds brings his own likeable charm, dramatic poise, and action nuances to the feature, guiding viewers through Self/less’s world of pursuing chases and sci-fi ideology. Ultimately, despite Reynolds’s charm, the character is pretty unmemorable central hero. British actor Matthew Goode does a good performance as Albright. His smooth and even keel tone of voice brings a sort of mystery to his character as he explains to Damian (and its viewers) on the complexity of shedding.

Natalie Martinez plays Madeline, wife to Reynolds’s former life, and gives off a weak performance from the both written character and the actress. That being said, the year old actress Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen who plays Anna is adorable and has the best father / daughter scenes with Reynolds (even though it occurs when the movie drags). The rest of the cast in Self/less is more in supporting roles with a handful of known actors. This includes Victor Garber as Martin, an old business friend to Kingsley’s Damian, Derek Luke as Anton, a man who befriends Ryan Reynolds’s Damian, and Michelle Dockery as Kingsley’s Damien estranged daughter Claire. The roles are given limited screen time that have intriguing qualities for the movie’s main character, but fall somewhat flat and, for the most part, are pretty forgetful.


The moral questions of immortality devolve into an unimpressive answer with Tarsem Singh’s newest movie. Self/less is a feature that has an intriguing premise with some good actors and that’s pretty much it. Its story becomes routinely bland, its action is lackluster, its third act is underwhelming, its characters (some) are weakly written and / or poor performed, and its cinematography fails to ignite excitement (a disappointment from such a visual director). To me, despite its sci-fi material, the movie is pretty forgetful, failing to excel beyond the meager limits of being mediocre. It interested, Self/less is passable as a rental, but skipping the movie is probably the best bet.

2.3 Out of 5 (Skip It)

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