The story begins with New York real estate mogul Damian (Kingsley) living out his last days. He’s been enormously successful but not even his great wealth can stop the cancer that is eating him from inside. Or can it? A shadowy figure named Dr. Albright (Matthew Goode) sees him as a candidate for an expensive and exclusive process known as shedding—changing an old worn out body for a new one. The new bodies are grown in a lab and should provide decades more life for the intelligence and personality of the patients. On other words, one day you look like Ben Kingsley and after a short nap you wake up looking like Ryan Reynolds.
Along with the new body comes a new identity and a vow of secrecy. You have your old personality but a new life.
What could possibly go wrong?
There are some side effects. Hallucinations, which, it turns out are echoes from the new body’s former life. (MILD SPOILER) The carcasses aren’t test tube babies but bodies harvested from living donors. Damian is having flashbacks to a former life and his investigation leads to a large conspiracy that threatens not only his new life but the lives of everyone he knows.
“Self/less” is the kind of movie where the main character says things like, “I know you don’t have any reason to… but you have to trust me right now.” It’s the kind of standard thriller scripting that prevents “Self/less” from being a truly thought provoking story about identity and the ethics of playing God. Instead it’s a by-the-numbers psychological thriller that never gets more than skin deep.
Reynolds doesn’t disappear into the role. He’s not Damien, he’s not his host body, he’s Reynolds. Charming, yes, good looking yes, but never convincing as a man who feels trapped inside another person’s body. Because the center of the film doesn’t hold the rest of the drama flops around, unable to take hold.
“Self/less” is a handsomely shot movie—director Tarsem Singh also made the extraordinary looking “The Cell”—but suffers from a generic approach.