Weekly Review: Self/Less (2015)

What would you do for immortality? When faced with his imminent death, Damian Hale has to decide what lengths he will go and what sacrifices he will make for a second chance at youth.

Self/Less is a science fiction thriller, directed by Tarsem Singh. It stars Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley as the main character Damian Hale, an incredibly rich and powerful man with 6 months to live. When faced with the reality of his death, Hale (at this point played by Ben Kingsley) begins researching a procedure referred to as “shedding.” Through this procedure, Hale would receive a new body, which he has been told has been grown in the lab.

After cutting ties with his old life, Hale (now played by Ryan Reynolds) has a new body, a new life, a new name. Just as he starts getting used to his new situation, he starts seeing visions; visions of a life he has never known. Despite assurances that these are typical symptoms of the procedure, Hale is faced with the thought that maybe this new body isn’t just his own.

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Overall, I’d say I enjoyed Self/Less. It was a fun ride for sure. While Ben Kingsley’s performance is short (and I felt his accent wasn’t consistent), he does a decent job at setting up the character of Damian Hale as a character who you could potentially feel pity for. Ryan Reynolds portrays Hale through the majority of the film, and if you enjoy his performances, then this film will probably be no different.

One of the aspects that I found most striking about Self/Less was how it was edited. This is one of those films that really seems to make disjointed edits work. There are a lot of instances where the edits are non-linear, but the story almost makes you think it’s playing straight through. There’s one scene that really stuck out to me where Reynolds is talking to his co-star, and while his dialogue plays straight through, the visuals cut ahead and the actress he’s speaking to starts acting out the directions he’s currently giving her. It was incredibly interesting. Other aspects of this style of editing in the film revolve around jump cuts that serve as passage of time. I thought it was pretty striking.

While I do admit that I enjoyed this film, critical reception for Self/Less has been ultimately negative. One of the biggest critiques is that the film had a lot of potential in its premise, but didn’t really do anything with it. I can see that critique. Self/Less doesn’t really cover any new ground in the science fiction dilemma of immortality. When it had the potential to dig deep into deeper existential themes, Self/Less chooses to go a more action driven route.

If you do choose to watch this film, you may figure out its eventual end fairly quickly. I know I did. I’m trying to make this review as spoiler free as possible because Self/Less is best watched when you have no idea what you’re getting into. It prevents you from having expectations that aren’t met.

I wouldn’t go as far as to recommend that you run out and find a copy of Self/Less to watch right this instant, but if you do happen to stumble upon it, I would suggest giving it a shot. It’s a fun watch, not a terrible film by any means. If you’re a fan of Ryan Reynolds, science fiction, and immortality, Self/Less might just be a hit for you.

*I will not be including a trailer because the trailers for Self/Less don’t leave any surprises*

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