Self/less represents a good example of what a good, summer movie used to be. That statement comes with a couple of reservations, however. The movie opens Friday (July 10).
In subject and tone, it reminds of summer thrillers such as War Games in that it wasn’t afraid to ask significant philosophical questions along with offering plenty of action to go with it. The list of films that have done this in recent years, during the warm weather months has grown shorter and shorter as the summer evolved into a bastion for comic book films.
There have been few I,Robots and more Marvel flicks. That is both good and bad as originality takes a holiday, allowing such films, when executed properly, to offer plenty of thrills.
But a different thrill comes with watching a film such as Self/less, a sci-fi thriller that asks pertinent questions regarding mortality and immortality all while combining those questions in a package that provides brisk and enjoyable entertainment for the most part.
That it goes beyond the mere blockbuster gives it some heft. The fact that it never commits the act of being boring provides more. Then there’s the story, which comes courtesy of Alex and David Pastor, captivates at times.
So what if you’re rich, sick and someone offers you the opportunity to prolong your life? When you’ve enjoyed the best of everything like Damian (Ben Kingsley), a New York City real estate mogul, you leap at the opportunity.
Introduced to the mysterious Dr. Albright (Matthew Goode), he receives that chance. Albright entices him to his program of soul/mind transference. For a cool quarter of a billion, he’ll put Damian in a ridiculously healthy body (Ryan Reynold’s) and give him a new life with a few provisos, which include never going back to his old life.
Of course he takes the chance and he’s transferred into a body that was allegedly grown in Albright’s laboratory. Ummm…yes, purchasing the Brooklyn Bridge was one of Damian’s first deals, obviously.
When his Albright gives him medicine that allegedly stops hallucinations, it doesn’t take long to discern something is going on.
As it turns out, however, that medication suppresses memories of the body’s former owner. In short order, Damian begins to question what he has done and finds himself drawn to the man’s former life. It’s in those moments that Self/less succumbs to predictability as Damian finds himself involved with his host body’s former family.
There’s little to quibble with respect to performances as Reynolds receives the thankless task of essentially playing two people and pulling it off with some skill. Goode is menacing enough as the heavy and Kingsley is Kingsley. He possesses stature as an actor and never, ever gives a subpar performance even in films that very well may be.
Directed by Tarsem Singh, Self/less has enough to hold the audience’s attention. Actually, despite the film’s flaws, it’s good to see Singh direct a decent film once again. He made his debut with The Cell and has had a rocky road since. Though few liked that debut, he displayed a cinematic eye and it remains.
Self/less is a change of pace for the summer that is work a look. Just know that comes with some rocky moments.
Director: Tarsem Singh
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode
Studio: Focus Features
Rated: Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, some sexuality, and language
Running time: 116 minutes
George’s rating: 3-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com