I was very excited about this film when I first learned about it, because it was similar to something that a friend and I were writing. In the end, it turned out that this story was different than ours, but also far less stimulating.
Story (2/5) – Self/less is about a man named Damian who undergoes a process called shedding. The process allows your memories, skills, and consciousness to be transferred into a laboratory-grown body. As you can expect, most of the film’s beginning involved learning about Damian. We meet with his family and friends. We learn how he conducts business and how he deals with his enemies.
Once he undergoes the process, however, we transition into his new life just as he does. We see him indulge in a lifestyle of fast cars, physical activity, and various sexual encounters. But we also see that he misses his former life, regretting most that he didn’t spend time with his daughter. After missing a dosage of medication, however, he gets a violent seizure. Compelled to investigate the images he sees, he soon finds himself in a conspiracy that could end his new found extended life.
Character (3/5) – The main character is played first by Ben Kingsley and then by Ryan Reynolds. Both Kingsley and Reynolds play Damian well. Each actor was able to lend their strengths to the role with a seamless transition between them.
The Damian character is an extremely wealthy and powerful aristocrat in New York City who is dying from cancer. Before he dies, he decides to extend his life by transferring his mind to another body. As such, the film’s title starts to have a more profound and dual meaning.
Eventually, we learn the Reynold’s body is not actually laboratory-grown. He is in fact a man named Mark, who gave up his life in order to help his daughter.
But back to the title thing for a moment. So Kingsley’s body essentially becomes without a self (or selfless) after transferring to Mark’s body. Damian had initially thought the body was empty or without its own self. But in reality, Mark’s body did have a self, and the body was there because of Mark’s selfless act of love. This act is mirrored in the end when Kingsley’s Damian does a similar selfless act of allowing Mark to come back and be with his family.
The Self/less title can be applied to other characters like Anton (Derek Luke) and Martin (Victor Garber), because of their actions. But Damian really is the character it seems to apply to the most.
The primary bad guy in the film is Professor Albright (Matthew Goode). He’s a dangerously likable character, who always seems to stay calm. You can tell he possesses wisdom beyond his age. Additionally, he is quite invested in making his process work and is willing to do unethical things to keep it going.
Other notable characters are Madeline (Natalie Martinez), who has a surprising link to Damian after he undergoes the shedding process, and the adorable Anna (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen).
Direction (2/5) – The director Tarsem Singh keeps the story moving, but the pacing was definitely a slow one. He has previously directed The Cell, Immortals, and most recently Mirror Mirror. Singh takes David and Alex Pastor’s story and turns it into a believable modern day science fiction. Unfortunately, it lacks a lot of the thrills you would expect a thriller to have. The mystery wasn’t really there either.
The scenery was amazing though. Brendan Galvin’s cinematography captured a lot of the beauty of New Orleans from the buildings to the people.
Execution (2/5) – The film was decently executed. The special effects were not overdone. There is an interesting car chase and a few fight scenes in the film that were good, but otherwise, there wasn’t much more in the way of action.
Meanwhile, the music score was in this jazzy-electronica style that sounded out-of-place at first. But then you think about the Damian character, and you realize that the music’s use of classic jazz and techno-beats mirrors the duality of that character.
Entertainment (1/5) – Ultimately, the film wasn’t very interesting to watch. Even with an okay story and some great characters, I was more interested in the science than the fiction. This tale of second chances and leaving behind a legacy didn’t really provide anything that we haven’t already seen in The 6th Day and Freejack.
Overall – In the end, I give this film a 2.0 out of 5. If you catch this movie, I would recommend that you watch it when it’s discounted or on video. Unless you are one of those people to whom this film is tailored toward. One that likes slow-paced stories focused on making moral choices and that share occasional heartwarming family moments.