Self / Less: Film Review
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Natalie Martinez, Matthew Goode, Michelle Dockery
Director: Tarsem Singh
From the director of The Cell and Immortals, comes a sci-fi tinged drama that has a great central premise, but some poor execution.
Ben Kingsley is Damien Hale, a dying New York real estate magnate and estranged father to Claire (Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery), who decides death isn't enough for him and that he wants to do more with his life. So thanks to a shadowy company and a Faustian pact involving shedding his previous body, he discovers there's a way to transfer his consciousness into a newer younger body - and unsurprisingly, he takes that opportunity.
But when he wakes up in a new body (in the form of a perma-scowling Ryan Reynolds) he soon discovers the company and the transfer are not all they appear to be, thanks to flashes and a conspiracy unfolding before him.
Over-long, tonally muddled and betraying its a mind is a great thing to waste premise, Self / Less is just a film that doesn't quite know what it wants to do with itself.
Losing Ben Kingsley after the first 10 minutes is an inevitable narrative necessity, but still doesn't help the film on its way. With his New York accented venal mogul clearly being the best part of it, the film struggles to continue in the wake of his disappearance, setting on a course for mediocrity and predictability rather than exploring the morality of a great premise.
Meshing Flatliners with parts of Quantum Leap may have seemed like a reasonable idea, and to be fair to Singh, the visuals of the locations and the sensory flashbacks soar as ever in one of his films. However, the human element of the drama is undersold by a muted Reynolds who never really seizes on the promise of a second life and it's never fully helped by an apparent complete attitude change from the man who's inhabiting his body.
The problem comes in the script which is predictable as you'd expect and starts to play like a list of things to be ticked off, rather than invested in emotionally as Reynolds' character meets up with his past and former wife and child.
Ultimately, Self / Less becomes a trudge through its Twilight Zone idea rather than an interesting journey - thanks in part to Reynolds and some badly put together scripting, it's a fairly soulless saunter through a great sci-fi premise.