It appears that any time you go to your local Cineplex among the myriad of choices be one or more movies that falls in the category of remakes/reboot/reimagining. Altercation with this is inevitable especially with themes that are so crucial to the essence of humanity that is inevitable that each generation replaced her own spin on a familiar story. It is regrettable that most times this is attempted instead of being able to afford the audience a new perspective and insight on those themes story falls flat of the greatness achieved by the original movie. This is the case for the film ‘Self/less’. The fundamental theme examined here are the extreme measures that people go to extend their lives. In this particular instance dying man of considerable wealth arranges to have his consciousness placed in the body of a much younger, vibrant man. There are many variations on this theme with the exceptionally rich feel that their wealth should give them the right to immortality. All the best example employing this methodology is the 1962 movie by John Frankenheimer, ‘Seconds’, Which Is the Final Installment in This Filmmakers ‘Paranoia Trilogy’. That was recently included in the much lauded Criterion Collection, but achievement that is unlikely to be achieved by the film on the consideration here. It is not really fair to compare Self/less to a movie of such caliber so I will endeavor to analyze this movie solely on its own merits.
Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) is a man of exceptional wealth and power. He occupies the rarefied social status of possessing a financial empire that places him at the top of those people referred to as the one percent. As Ben Franklin once noted "the two things that are certain in life or death and taxes", Hale has always hired the best experts possible to avoid paying taxes and now that he has been diagnosed with a terminal cancer he seeks the same remedy to avoid death. When this condition deteriorates to the point that he is literally on his deathbed help finds a business card that directs into a scientist with the potential solution to the dilemma that all men must face. Hale meets with Professor Albright (Matthew Goode), who describes the him a radical new procedure he refers to as ‘shedding’ transferred his consciousness, the very essence of who he is as a human being, into the body of an artificially grown subject. As a cover story arrangements are made to fake the public death of Damien Hale. After that technicality is taking care of the dying man undergoes the procedure and is transferred into his new host (Ryan Reynolds). A side effect of this process is experiencing exceptionally vivid and realistic hallucinations. Medication is prescribed to help diminish these unwanted effects.
In the guise of his new body Hale gets ready to begin his new life assuming the identity of Edward Kittner. In short order he makes a new friend, his neighbor, Anton (Derek Luke) as he begins to assimilate into life 2.0. One day he overlooks taking his medication and is overwhelmed by visions of a woman and child. Edward brings us up to Dr. Albright who assures them they are inconsequential and dismisses any concerns Edward might have. During the course of this examination conversation the doctor mentioned certain details that prove he knows more about what’s going on that he is revealing. The doctor decides that Edward requires a change in locale and arranges for him to move to Hawaii. Convinced that the hallucinations are actually memories he focuses on the landmark that he noticed during the hallucination and change the destination to St. Louis. Once that he encounters her young woman, Madeline Bitwell (Natalie Martinez), was convinced that Edward is a deceased husband, Mark. This is understandably disconcerting revelation for Edward wasn’t sure that he would be placed into an artificially prepared body. Instead, Mark sold his body to Albright in order to secure funds necessary to cure is extremely ill daughter.
Edward and Madeleine are set upon by some thugs led by Anton. It turns out that his quickly made friend was a setup, a plant by Albright the sole purpose of monitoring Edward. Some significant wounds are inflicted upon Anton during the melee as they managed to escape. Knowing they have to run they stop pick up some of Madeleine’s things and get Madeleine’s daughter, Anna (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen), from his school. Cling to New Orleans Edward begins t. O research scientist to divide shedding, Dr. Jensen (Thomas Francis Murphy). In a video contained in the research material Edward sees an assistance that could be none other than Albright. It is obvious that Jensen shed his body and assumed that of his assistance. He also discovers the reason for the medication he has been given; it suppresses the original personality and have taken long enough to allow that personality to fade away completely. Now becomes a matter of survival for him to avoid Albright in his henchmen. Edward realizes that without the medication he will revert back to Mark.
The director of the film, Tarsem Singh, is still very much a neophyte in his chosen craft. Previously he has a television series, ‘Emerald City’ that lasted one season and a couple of films in the fantasy genre albeit with some A-list stars participating. Why afford a relatively new director taking on a project that requires some considerable experience for proper execution, hopefully he learned from some of the shortcomings this movie were subjected to. In a story that is centered on personalities and what it means to be an individual as well as the essence of what makes us human being, there is unfortunately a lack of character development provided here. His strongest actor, Sir Ben Kingsley for Academy award nominations one rent as best actor in a leading role has what amounts to be a cameo here. It’s understandable since she’s the performer who portrays the dying rich man, a part that is self-limiting as defined by the context of the story. Ryan Reynolds is a talented actor and popular amongst his fans. What appears to be missed by his agent and casting directors is that Mr. Reynolds forte are characters with morbid comical twist to them. If you want to see him showcasing his comical side get a hold of some episodes of the sitcom ‘Two Guys and a Girl’. In the latter seasons of this four season series he has the opportunity to play opposite another actor who has a special talent for comic overtones, Nathan Fillion. Reynolds was miscast with this role virtually every seeing that he is in is one that is deadly serious. He is not able to make the audience believe that he is one personality with a lover fighting to get out. The screenwriting team of Alex and David Pastor attempted to put too many twists into a script that was inherently convoluted in the first place. This fraternal team has written and directed some intriguing are films in the more traditional horror vein. They tried to fit this story into that mold with the story would be best presented in the form of a psychological thriller. This is, after all, the ultimate form of identity theft.