Movie Review: Self/less
Jul 10, 2015 10:19PM ● Published by Davis Johnson
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
The film starts off with Damien Hayes (Ben Kingsley), a real-estate genius who is estranged from his only daughter and dying from cancer. Aside from his doctor, no one else knows he has the disease, or so he believed. The mysterious Professor Albright (Mathew Goode) tells Damien of a process called “shedding” in which a perfectly working brain can be transferred from a dying body into a healthy new one. Albright also claims that the bodies are created and grown in a lab specifically for each client. This process is exclusive for only the most brilliant minds, who coincidentally are extremely wealthy. Damien agrees to undergo the procedure, to which Albright adds that there are specific rules that must be followed; the death must be in a public place, no talking to anyone from the past, and required take a strange red pill everyday without fail.
After settling his affairs, Damien wakes up in his new body (now Ryan Reynolds) and given a new identity. After extensive physical therapy to allow his mind to adjust to its new home, Damien is placed in New Orleans and prescribed a week’s supply of medication. These pills are to allow Damien’s neurons to adjust to the new body and should he fail to take them, he may die. The only way for Damien to refill his prescription is during Albright’s weekly check up. Damien has no way of contacting Albright and must rely on him to remain alive.
As Damien settles into his new life, he becomes friends with a man named Anton during a basketball game. Anton takes Damien to a club and the film goes into a montage of Damien drinking, partying, and having sex with numerous beautiful women. Things change drastically when Damien forgets to take his medication and suffers from intense hallucinations that feel like actual memories. The first is a pumpkin shaped water tower in a grassy field and the second revolves around a Latina woman and a sick young girl staring at him, asking if everything will be okay. Damien tells Albright about the woman and water tower, to which the professor assures him that they were nothing more than hallucinations caused from not taking the medication. This does not satisfy Damien as he tracks down the water tower and finds a house with photos containing his new body and the woman and child from his hallucinations. The woman, Madeline (Natalie Martinez), confronts him and believes Damien is her husband Mark, who she believed to have drowned several months prior.
Events quickly unravel as Damien and Madeline are attacked by Albright’s men. The movie shifts to a action, chaser film in which Damien shows his disgust towards Albright upon learning that Mark sold his body for money in order to save his daughter’s life. Damien even went so far as to say, “I could have just cut him a check.” To which Albright simply responds, “But would you have?”
It’s this scene in which the movie brings up a mind tangling situation, if Damien stops taking the pills, his mind will fade into oblivion and let Mark’s mind resurface. This makes people wonder if they would let themselves die so someone else could come back.
Self/less starts off as a powerful philosophical film, but quickly changes into a shoot-em up chaser that leaves much to be desired. It jars viewers and leaves many questions unanswered in favor of action scenes that do not justify the plot. So many events rely on hypotheticals and blind luck, which makes the scenarios hard to believe and that any of the plans could work. Another huge problem is trying to figure out how Damien is one of the so called “greatest minds.” He is a real-estate mogul, so how would he be a contribution to the advancement of society. I have a hard time believing that he could provide a great benefit for society like finding a cure for cancer, stop global warming, or even diminish crime. So why give him this chance except for the fact that he has money? The film, although thought provoking, does not justify people going out and spending their money on it.