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2015-09-25 08:38

What it's about:

A dying real estate mogul turns to a covert corporation for his last chance of survival: a new procedure that would transfer his consciousness into a younger body. It's not long, however, before he starts to find out that this miraculous procedure may not be all that it seems.

What we thought:

Self/less comes with a fairly tried and true science fiction premise but it's disappointing to see just how little it does with it.

Science fiction has long been interested in questioning the nature of the soul and of consciousness, while the quest for immortality has been a constant theme in both science and fiction for as long as anyone can imagine. Self/less is only the latest in this long tradition and its central premise of achieving some kind of immortality by transferring one's consciousness into new bodies is far from a new one. That it's unoriginal is neither unexpected nor problematic, therefore, but what is significantly less forgivable is how tired and uninspired it all feels.

Needless to say, if you've seen the trailer or even just the film's poster, Self/less is not exactly thoughtful, “smart” science fiction that is more interested in ideas than in racking up explosions but that doesn't excuse just how unwilling it is to tackle its story on anything other than the most superficial of levels. After all, there have been countless popcorn sci-fi films that still have depth and intelligence and even if they don't tackle their themes full on, they often suffuse the action nonetheless.

Self/less doesn't even manage that as its far more interested in its endlessly predictable but technically twisty narrative and its increasingly banal action scenes to ever view its intriguing premise as anything more than a high-concept launchpad for a fairly straightforward thriller. Though, again, even this would be perfectly OK but between Tarsem Singh's lumpen direction and a lazy, uninspired script by David and Alex Pastor, it doesn't even work on this level, as the audience is always at least two steps ahead of the characters and the apparently “thrilling” action scenes are anything but.

If there's one level on which the film might actually have worked though, is as a character-driven story of a fairly selfish, though not particularly bad, man coming significantly closer to the ideal of the title through the experience of effectively living his life from an entirely fresh new angle (once he has his consciousness transferred he understandably has to start a new, witness-protection-like life). Sadly, once again Self/less drops the ball horribly.

In this case though, it's less a problem with Singh and the Pastors (great name for a '50s doo-wop group, don't you think?) as it is with the film's pretty terrible casting of its primary protagonist. Ryan Reynolds is not a bad actor and he has been getting increasingly better over the years with some fairly interesting roles (though, paradoxically, I'm most excited to see him in yet another comic book movie, Deadpool) but his greatest weak-spot remains his ability to properly transform into completely different people.

He has depth, in other words, rather than range, which is something of a problem here as he is supposed to be playing a continuation of Ben Kingsley's character but his performance doesn't even suggest the slightest link between old body and new. It's a crucial, critical failure that undermines the perfectly good, even very good, work in terms of his characters complexity, his inner struggles and his ultimate redemption.

Self/less is closer to a missed opportunity than anything truly objectionable and is basically dull and mediocre but still watchable, but in a way that just makes it all the more frustrating. Mediocrity is one thing but settling for mediocrity – which the filmmakers have undoubtedly done at every step of the way – is quite another.

Read more on:    ben kingsley  |  ryan reynolds  |  movies

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