Arts movie review

Don’t you wish your last MRI was this much fun?

Self/less has a lot of potential, but falls short

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Damian Hale (Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley) undergoes a radical medical procedure in Gramercy Pictures’ provocative psychological thriller Self/less, directed by Tarsem Singh and written by Alex Pastor and David Pastor.
Courtesy of Alan Markfield / Gramercy Pictures



Directed by Tarsem Singh

Starring Ben Kingsley, Ryan Reynolds

Rated PG-13

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Self/less isn’t a boring film, but the trailer suggests a film more philosophically engaging than it ended up being. In fact, if you see the trailer, you don’t really have to attend the movie to know what it’s about, and most people will be able to predict each turn of events. Like I said, it isn’t boring — there are some exciting scenes that attempt to add mystery and thrill — but don’t expect to be too surprised. The film presents some entertaining (though mostly unoriginal) ideas, but ultimately doesn’t deliver. For example, the concept of transferring consciousness from one body to the next in an attempt to achieve eternal youth is pretty cool to think about. However, I was supremely disappointed with the lack of imagination regarding this process — apparently if you go into a huge MRI-esque machine with a strange net on your face, you can transfer your mind into another body. Make sure to bring your suspension of disbelief into the theater with you along with your smuggled-in candy.

I think that science fiction has a huge potential to explore ideas of philosophy. After all, anything goes in a science fiction universe and the possibilities are limited only by human creativity. Self/less poses obvious questions about morality and concepts of self, but the film doesn’t present any profound or unexpected takes on the issues. That’s not to say that Damian Hale (Kingsley/Reynolds) doesn’t grapple with the guilt he feels about taking over someone else’s body — he does feel incredibly guilty, and does seem to flip-flop on whether or not he is willing to continue living in a stolen body. But overall, the movie is a painfully obvious depiction of representation on being mindful of the morality of cutting edge science.

Ryan Reynolds seems to break out of his typical charismatic-funny-guy typecast role, which was surprising and refreshing. But Reynolds and Kingsley both play Hale, who is a ruthless industrial mogul (Reynolds plays young-new-body Hale, and Kingsley plays old-and-dying Hale), but the two could have easily been different characters. Perhaps reborn Damian wanted to start over as a likable good guy, but the dying Damian we are first introduced to is definitely not a likeable character.

Self/less is entertaining enough if you’re just trying to settle on a movie to see with friends. It’s filled with action, has recognizable actors, and is pretty easy to follow so it’ll probably be pleasing to everyone. You’ll have lots to talk about after the credits roll, though the conversation will probably revolve around how bad the movie was instead of gravitating toward the underdeveloped questions of morality and ethics it presents.