My uncle, Roger, who is sadly no longer with us, once told me that if a movie is over advertised, the studio is concerned that it won’t play well. Today, test audiences, big data, and social media, are primary indicators of how well a film will play.
As I’ve studied movies and advertising strategies, I’ve found his wisdom to be true. However, my uncle never mentioned how under advertised films play out. As it turns out, the opposite is quite often true.
SELF/LESS happens to be one of those under advertised, but flawed gems.
In the New World Order, we seek to preserve our lives and achievements. Our legacy, if you will. For the ultra rich, this is now medically possible. Not the cryonics you’ve heard about. But transference. Immortality. Sir Ben Kingsley plays Damien, a highly successful man with everything but time. In order to preserve himself, he enlists the aid of Dr Albright (Matthew Goode, THE IMITATION GAME) to transfer himself into a younger body, that of Ryan Reynolds. As Damien gets adjusted to his new body, all is not what it seems.
While Reynolds does not in any way emulate Kingsley, they both play the same personae quite effectively. The camera loves Kingsley and the same is true with Reynolds. They both have a dynamism and magnetism that draw you in to the scenes as they unfold. Victor Garber brings some semblance of sanity to the story, effectively playing off of both Kingsley and Reynolds and none overshadows the other. Matthew Goode is quite effective in his smaller role and would have been a better foil for Kingsley, but plays well off of Reynolds’ trademark playfulness. Natalie Martinez (END OF WATCH) plays the female lead and while I think she’s a great actress and matched well with Reynolds, her character was not as effective as it could have been.
The story, written by Alex and David Pastor (CARRIERS), directed by Tarsem Singh (THE IMMORTALS), tries to combine elements of science fiction and psychological thriller. Pacing was off, making it seem disjointed as it relied far too much on the action pieces that overuse computer generated fires and explosions to make their points. The payoff makes this underrated film a gem. It will find its audience (probably on home video).
Even in death, magnanimity will live forever.