If you could live forever, would you take a man’s life to do it? If not, congratulations; you’re on equal moral standing with Captain Jack Sparrow, and that’s not saying much considering he’s a pirate.
Self/Less is about a man who gets a new body and some unexpected baggage with it. Is it mind-blowing or headache-inducing? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.
So who stars in this movie? Ben Kingsley of Ender’s Game and Ghandi is wealthy architect Damian Hill. Ryan Reynolds of The Proposal and Green Lantern plays Damian’s new younger self. Matthew Goode of The Imitation Game is immortality-dealer Albright. Other stars include Natalie Martinez of End of Watch, Victor Garber of The Flash, and Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey.
The director is Tarsem Singh, known for the symbolism-heavy thriller The Cell and the Snow White retelling Mirror Mirror. Neither film fills me with great confidence, having seen the latter and reviews of the former, but I’m unfamiliar enough with his work to give him a shot.
The trailer starts by introducing us to Damian as the man who built an empire, namely New York, from the ground up. I always wondered who rebuilt the city after the alien invasion in Avengers. He’s created a legacy that will outlive him in the buildings that bear his name. Unfortunately, they won’t have to stand long to do so, since he’s dying. When you’re about to depart from this world, who you gonna call? No, not the Ghostbusters. Under the circumstances, that’s in very bad taste.
No, Damian gets in touch with Albright and his organization that specializes in giving “humanity’s greatest minds more time to fulfill their potential.” They do this by putting their minds in empty vessel bodies, sort of like taping over that old football game. According to Albright, this particular body is “designed to offer the very best of human experience.” And it balances it out with a starring role in Green Lantern.
As they pass the point of no return (cue Phantom of the Opera music), Damian and his empty vessel are held down by face nets and put into matching his and his MRIs. One of the technicians injects Damian, and when the architect asks what was in it, he replies, “It’s something to stop your heart.” I’m not often in favor of lying, but maybe you should have told the guy about to undergo a delicate mind-transference something that wouldn’t have panicked him, like saying it’s a mild antibiotic or something.
Damian wakes up in Ryan Reynolds’ body, something most men only dream about. Albright asks how he feels, and Damian comments that “it has that new body smell.” Billions of dollars of equipment and you can’t spring for some deodorant? Albright encourages him to have fun with his new life, and apparently, Damian’s idea of fun is playing pool with his hands, driving as many different cars and boats as possible, propelling himself ten feet above the water, and using his wealth and good looks to get women to take their clothes off for him. “I haven’t seen anything like that in about fifty-two years,” he tells one such woman. Oh, sorry, I was distracted by that lovely bird with lovely plumage. Why aren’t you wearing any clothes again?
Unfortunately, Damian’s vessel isn’t as empty as he thought, and memories of another life start filtering back in. “Immortality has some side effects,” Albright tells him. Nausea and vomiting are side effects, Albright. This is a little more significant. Damian’s new memories lead him to his body’s old house and family, making for an awkward family reunion, especially since his wife has a gun. He walks through the bubble city from E.T. as Albright tells him “There is no science, no progress, without sacrifice.” We throw a virgin into a volcano before every procedure.
“I never wanted us to suffer,” Damian tells his host’s family as he mopes in the shower. He walks by a giant stone head which is there for some reason as he looks out at a vision of Albright and his family. In case the red pill versus blue pill scenario from The Matrix was too subtle for you. Damian gets justly angry because he’s taken another man’s life and he doesn’t like being a murderer. Damian’s host tells him via video message that he can feel himself fading away to nothingness. Yep, too much time on the Internet will do that to you, man.
As the trailer moves into its version of an action montage, we get glimpses of Damian fighting back mixed with past memories and digitized science stuff, plus a multi-car flip. It’s all too quick to see and thus rather confusing, and over it all, Albright tells Damian, “Without me, your mind will relapse, and we both know who takes over. I’m the only one standing between you and oblivion.” Here’s the question: is he talking to Damian or to Damian’s host? Is Damian’s host’s mind coming back and threatening to edge out the older man, or is the younger guy in control and will eventually be wiped out by the architect? This would be a lot easier if they didn’t both have the same face, which is probably why more people don’t look like Ryan Reynolds.
So based on the trailer, do I recommend the movie? Sort of. It’s got very talented actors behind it (Ben Kingsley is good in everything he does), and the intriguing premise, if used to its full potential, could get into some interesting ethical and plot areas. That said, I get a muddled vibe from the trailer, as though it’s not exactly clear on the details of the movie. I like that the trailer doesn’t spoil everything, but I’d be happier if I knew it was intentional and not a byproduct of confusion. Hopefully that vibe doesn’t extend to the movie, but given the director’s tendency to get weird when he goes into people’s heads, I wouldn’t count on it. As it stands, I’m just interested enough to check it out when it comes to Redbox.
But if anybody is taking new body requests, I might be interested in a Benedict Cumberbatch or young Harrison Ford clone.
Self/Less is owned by Focus Features.