Sunday, July 12, 2015

Review: Self/Less

Image courtesy of Focus Features.
Tarsem Singh's "Self/Less" is the first body swap movie that I can recall in some time, although it's certainly not in the same vein as "All of Me" or "Vice Versa." No, this is a sci-fi thriller with an emphasis on the thrills, but not so much on the science.

In the picture, Ben Kingsley plays Damian Hale, an extremely wealthy man who has made his mark by constructing buildings all across New York City. But he's also dying and estranged from his daughter, who works at a non-profit.

Damian is tipped to an organization that prolongs the lives of those wealthy enough to pay for a process in which their consciousness is transferred into a younger, but deceased, body that is brought back to life.

As I'd mentioned before, there are numerous shoot outs and chase scenes in "Self/Less," but not much time spent on the science angle. So, all we see is Kingsley thrown into a machine that looks like the type in which you'd get a CAT scan and his soul somehow ends up in the body of Ryan Reynolds, whose previous inhabitant was a former soldier with a young wife and ailing child.

But after Damian (now in Reynold's body) begins to have flashbacks of the former inhabitant's life, he begins to investigate and finds that the scientist, Albright (Matthew Goode), who performed the consciousness-swapping procedure has some nefarious secrets. And, of course, Albright isn't too keen on Damian's snooping around, so he sends goons to hunt down Damian and the wife and kid of the former inhabitant of Reynold's body.

"Self/Less" isn't exactly a bad movie, but it's a little uninspired. The concept of transferring the soul of one person into the frame of another is an interesting one, but this film is more concerned with hand-to-hand combat sequences and shoot outs - two of which include a blow torch, mind you - than metaphysical concepts.

And for a film by Tarsem Singh, who directed the lavish thriller "The Cell" and "The Fall," this picture features mostly by-the-numbers camera work to go along with its by-the-numbers script. Some of the scenes shot in New Orleans, where part of the film is set, are atmospheric, but they can't quite save "Self/Less" from its rote storytelling.

I recognize that a silly Hollywood action movie is not the place to go searching for thoughtful analysis when it comes to concepts involving science or what it means to be human, but recent films such as "Interstellar" prove that it is possible to do so. "Self/Less," unfortunately, is just not one of them.

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