Film review: Self/Less

Fountain of Youth runs dry

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 18th July 2015, 6:00 pm
Pictured: Ryan Reynolds. PA Photo/Shedding Productions/Alan Markfield
Pictured: Ryan Reynolds. PA Photo/Shedding Productions/Alan Markfield

The legend of a fountain of youth, which restores the vitality of those who drink from its cascading waters, has been perpetuated in literature, art and folklore for centuries.

Director Tarsem Singh and screenwriters Alex and David Pastor consider a radical solution to mortality in sci-fi thriller Self/Less: a medical procedure known as “shedding”, which transplants a human consciousness into a healthy new body.

It’s a neat central conceit, but the execution is occasionally sloppy, and action sequences speak louder than words.

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Industrialist Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) is a force of nature in the boardroom, flanked by devoted right-hand man Martin O’Neil (Victor Garber), but his billions and business acumen are no match for cancer.

With less than six months to live, Damian contacts Phoenix Biogenic run by the enigmatic Professor Albright (Matthew Goode), who claims to have pioneered a procedure that transplants consciousness into a healthy body grown in the laboratory.

Damian stages his death and reawakens as a thirty-something hunk (Ryan Reynolds).

He studies a prepared identity, entrepreneur Edward Kittner, and starts afresh with stashed millions in New Orleans, befriending a local man called Anton (Derek), who is a passport to the city’s hedonistic nightlife.

Every day, Damian must take a red pill to stave off hallucinations, which Albright passes off as “glitches”.

But Self/Less is a missed opportunity.

What could have been a thought-provoking futuristic nightmare, begging tantalising theological questions, is reduced to a humdrum action thriller replete with bone-cracking fist fights.