I’ve just had the pleasure of watching the recent American sci-fi thriller, from director Tarsem Singh (“Immortals”, “The Cell”). The movie, titled “Self/Less” was written by David Pastor and Alex Pastor (“Carriers”, “Out Of The Dark”).
Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley – “Robot Overlords”, “Stonehearst Asylum”) is a billionaire businessman who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and given less than six months to live.
Seriously ill, he receives a business card from a Professor Albright (Matthew Goode – “The Imitation Game”, “Match Point”). A scientist, Albright tells Hale about a hugely expensive revolutionary medical procedure called “shredding” whereby one’s healthy conscious mind can be transferred to a new body, artificially grown in a laboratory, allowing the old or diseased body to die whilst the mind lives on in the new body.
Hale decides to undergo the procedure, prior to which he arranges lunch with his old friend Martin O’Neill (Victor Garber – “Argo”, “Alias”) so that he can be seen to have “died” publicly – in reality being transferred to Albright’s facility en-route to the hospital so that the procedure can take place and his “old” body delivered to the hospital as a D.O.A.
When Hale wakes in his new body, Albright gives him some pills. He must take one each day to suppress hallucinations, a side effect of the procedure. When he is recovered sufficiently, Albright releases Hale, now living under the name Edward Hale, to an apartment in New Orleans where he quickly becomes friends with a neighbour, Anton (Derek Luke – “Supremacy”, “Lions For Lambs”).
Hale and Anton spend a lot of time together, going to clubs, drinking and having fun, and Hale enjoys spending nights with a succession of young women with bodies that he remarks he hasn’t seen “for fifty-to years”. One day he forgets to take his medication, however, and suffers very vivid hallucinations of a particular woman and child and a distinctive landmark.
Hale speaks to Albright about the hallucinations and is assured that they will pass if he keeps taking the pills, but his suspicions are aroused when Albright mentions a specific detail that Hale had seen but not mentioned. Instead of heading to Hawaii for a change of scene, as directed by Albright, Hale heads to St. Louis to find the landmark he saw in his hallucination.
When he gets to St. Louis he finds the landmark, and in the isolated house next to it he discovers photos of the woman, Madeline Bitwell (Natalie Martinez – “End Of Watch”, “Under The Dome”) and child, Anna, that he saw in his hallucination, and of his new body.
Hale learns that his new supposedly laboratory-grown body is that of Madeline’s husband Mark (Ryan Reynolds – “Safe House”, “Woman In Gold”) who, unbeknownst to Madeline, had sold his body to Albright in order to fund their sick daughter’s medical care.
From there on in things escalate as Albright tries to keep his project secret and get rid of anyone that could blow it, and Hale attempts to protect Madeline and Anna whilst balancing between his own persona and the intruding memories from Mark…
I really enjoyed this movie, despite some flaws. Even though Hale had to be re-taught how to walk in his “new”body, he managed to retain Mark’s ex-Forces combat and shooting skills when he was in a tight spot – which seemed a little unlikely, and it seemed a little unnecessary for Albright to be wanting him and the Bitwells dead too. Hale showed precious little of his original personality once in his new body, oddly given that he essentially wanted to feel immortal. Oh, and the twist involving a bullet casing towards the climax of proceedings was stretching credibility just a tad!
On the plus side, there are a number of clever twists and turns so that you’re never 100% sure who can be trusted and who cannot. And of course, it is thought-provoking in terms of “what would I do if…” in response to some of the scenarios played out here.
Performance wise, Kingsley is great while he is on-screen early on in the film, Reynolds is solid if unremarkable, but for me the best depiction came from Goode as the ruthless and really quite chilling scientist.
Now, the movie hasn’t had the best of reviews, and granted this premise isn’t entirely original. However whilst this is not perfect and unlikely to become a future classic, for a bit of not-so-mindless entertainment that does exactly what it says on the tin – i.e a sci-fi thriller (it ticks both of those boxes) this isn’t a bad film at all…