Self/less (2015)

Director: Tarsem Singh
Writer: Àlex Pastor, David Pastor
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Martinez, Matthew Goode, Ben Kingsley, Victor Garber, Derek Luke, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Melora Hardin, Michelle Dockery
Seen on: 14.5.2020

Damian (Ben Kingsley) has led a hugely successful life, regretting only that he is estranged from his daughter Claire (Michelle Dockery). Now he is old, rich and dying. But he doesn’t feel ready to die just yet, so he is happy when he discovers Albright (Matthew Goode), a scientist who promises that he can have a new, freshly grown body and start all over again. Damian agrees to the procedure. When he wakes up, his body (Ryan Reynolds) lives up to all of his dreams. As he gets used to it, though, he also keeps getting haunted by dreams and nightmares that appear to him more real than they have any right to be.

Self/less is a decent film. Nothing here says greatness, but it isn’t bad either. It is like a case study for solid entertainment of a kind that has gotten rarer in recent years as budgets have grown and shrunk, leaving few players in the middle of the field.

The film poster showing older Damian (Ben Kingsley) and younger Damian (Ryan Reynolds) lying on slabs in front of medical machinery.

I have to admit that Self/less being a Tarsem Singh movie had escaped my notice until his name popped up in the opening credits (I probably knew this at some point and forgot). This appears to be indicative, too, for the film itself because it has very little of the (visual) oppulence that his movies usually boast. Yes, there are a couple of moments here and there, but compared to The Fall, The Cell, Immortals or Mirror Mirror, Self/less is downright visually boring. This might have to do with the more realistic setting, but it was slightly disappointing regardless. Not that it looked bad, it just didn’t have that extra flourish.

The story, too, doesn’t have any extra flourishes. What you expect to happen, happens. There is nothing that will take you by surprise, any revelation it attempts (and it doesn’t try very hard) is warmly familiar like an old pair of house slippers. I did like that the film touches on how old, white, rich men vastly overestimate their importance and think they deserve everything forever – and that Damian learns his lesson there.

Damian (Ben Kingsley) sitting in his golden living room.

The cast is fine. Reynolds is solid, as is Martinez and they have good chemistry with each other. Goode, Dockery, Garber and Kingsley are always welcome, even if they don’t get to do very much here.

Altogether, the film doesn’t ever feel too long, is entertaining and delivers what it sets out to do without ever surpassing any expectations. If you just want to pass the time with a decent SciFi thriller that doesn’t ask much of you, Self/less is the film for you.

Damian (Ryan Reynolds) in front of the giant head of a statue.

Summarizing: Fine.

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