Director Tarsem Singh’s ‘Self/less’ is sadly, soulless

Ryan Reynolds in ‘Self/less’

Human beings have been in search of immortality since we first learned about death.  Self/less is the latest in a long line of films exploring the ‘what-if’ of being able to live beyond our alloted “three-score and ten” as someone once wrote.

“Damian Hale” (Kingsley) is a brilliant real estate mogul in New York City who has conquered every challenge in his life save two.  He no longer has a relationship with his daughter “Claire” and he wants that to change.  The motivation for that desire is that he is dying of cancer.  Someone slipped a business card to him anonymously that says the people identified on the card can help him, so deciding he has nothing to lose, he makes the call.

Ben Kingsley as "Damian Hale" in 'Self/less' before he sheds this body
Ben Kingsley as “Damian Hale” in ‘Self/less’ before he sheds this body

He winds up in touch with “Professor Albright” (Goode) who explains that by a process known as shredding, he can have his mind placed into a healthy body that was genetically engineered in his laboratory.  Albright explains that he only offers his services to those who possess great minds, in order to give them more time to accomplish extraordinary things.  Having nothing to lose, Damian goes ahead with the process.

He awakens in a new body (Reynolds), is given a new identity and access to the large sum of money he set aside for his new life.  After a period of adjustment, he becomes comfortable in his new life except for some apparent “flashbacks” to memories he did not possess prior to the shredding process.  He grows determined to find the origins of these images and this leads to his discovery that his new body isn’t what he was promised.

Natalie Martinez, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen and Ryan Reynolds in 'Self/less'
Natalie Martinez, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen and Ryan Reynolds in ‘Self/less’

Few directors have been as hit and miss as Tarsem Singh has been since his 2000 feature film debut with The CellThe Fall in 2006 was a masterpiece but his 2011 follow-up Immortals is one of the ten worst films of the current decade thus far.  Mirror Mirror was fun but this is tedious at best.  Visually satisfying to the eye but with story and dialogue that makes it seem longer than its 116 minute run time.  The transition of one morally bankrupt person due to the treachery of another is an idea worthy of exploration but even the best efforts of Ryan Reynolds can’t salvage this movie.  The action/adventure segments aren’t well-done and while it is easy to root for the widow (Martinez) and her adorable daughter (Kinchen), it is very difficult to care about any of the other members of the cast.  Michelle Dockery is good but underused as “Claire” and Victor Garber is excellent as the man who was behind Damian Hale as he ascended to the towers of wealth and power.

Perhaps the real message should be that we are given a relatively short time here and rather than trying to extend it beyond that to which we were gifted, we should make the most of the precious moments that we have.

Rating – PG-13 for sequences of violence, some sexuality, and language

Running time – One hour and fifty-six minutes

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