Self/less is a 2015 American science fiction action thriller film directed by Tarsem Singh, produced by Ram Bergman and James D. Stern and written by Alex and David Pastor. The film tells the story of a business tycoon and billionaire named Damian Hale, who is diagnosed with a deadly illness. However, he manages to somehow save his life with the aid of Professor Albright, who transfers Hale's consciousness into a new, younger body. The film stars Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Martinez, Matthew Goode, Victor Garber, Derek Luke, and Ben Kingsley.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tarsem Singh|
|Music by||Antônio Pinto|
|Edited by||Robert Duffy|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|Box office||$30.5 million|
The film was originally set to release on February 27, 2015, but because of multiple setbacks, it wasn’t released until July 10, 2015. It was produced by Endgame Entertainment and was financed by FilmDistrict and was predicted to be financially successful, due to its association with the producers Ram Bergman and James D. Stern, who also produced Looper, as well as the ensemble cast. However the film only grossed $12 million in North America and a total of $30 million worldwide, against a $26 million production budget. Upon release, the film received generally negative reviews from critics and audiences, with praise for the concept and performances but criticism towards the storytelling, action sequences, effects, and stunts.
Business tycoon and billionaire Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) is master of his own universe, until he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now on his deathbed, he finds a business card directing him to a man named Professor Albright (Matthew Goode), who informs him about a radical medical procedure called "shedding", in which one's consciousness is transferred to an artificially grown healthy body. Damian decides to undergo the procedure, and follows Albright's instructions to stage his own public death. Albright transfers him into a new body (Ryan Reynolds) and prescribes medication to alleviate the vivid hallucinations which he claims are side effects of the procedure.
After a period of adaptation exercises, Damian starts a new life in New Orleans under the assumed name of Edward Kidner and quickly befriends his neighbor Anton (Derek Luke). However, when he forgets to take his medicine, he subsequently suffers hallucinations of a woman and child. When Damian asks Albright about the hallucinations, Albright dismisses his concerns, but accidentally reveals that he knows details of the hallucinations that Damian did not tell him. Albright arranges for Damian to move to Hawaii for a change of scenery, but Damian, convinced the hallucinations are some kind of memory, identifies a landmark he saw in his vision and heads to St. Louis instead.
At a farmhouse outside of St. Louis, he finds the woman, Madeline (Natalie Martinez), who reacts to him as her apparently deceased husband, Mark Bitwell. Damian learns, much to his horror, that the body he is inhabiting belonged to another man who sold himself to Albright in order to gain the money he needed to pay for their daughter Anna's life-saving medical treatment. Shortly after arriving at the house Damian and Madeline are attacked by Albright's men, led by Anton, who reveals that he is one of Albright's employees. In a bid to escape, Damian severely wounds Anton and kills his accomplices. Damian and Madeline leave the farm and collect Anna from school, where they flee.
At a motel stop overnight, discovering he has no more of the medicine he needs, Damian uses a laptop computer to research "shedding" and discovers an ill, elderly Dr. Francis Jensen (Thomas Francis Murphy), now deceased, was the pioneer researcher in the field of transhumanism. In a video interview of Jensen, Damian notices a tic he shares with Albright. When he then sees a young Albright sitting next to Jensen in the same video, Damian concludes Albright was Jensen's assistant, and Jensen has shed himself into Albright's body.
Damian finds Dr. Jensen's wife, Phyllis, in a nursing home in New Orleans and tries to get her to reveal where her husband's research is, but she does not know due to suffering from alzheimer's. Damian then lures Jensen to the facility and confronts him. Jensen explains his motivations, but Damian rejects them. Jensen reveals that the pills will eventually eliminate the "Mark" personality of the body Damian is inhabiting, but if he quits taking the pills, "Mark" will reassert control over his body and Damian will fade into oblivion.
As they leave to go to the medical lab, more assassins show up. Jensen escapes, while Damian struggles with another man whom he recognizes as Anton in a new body, due to the necklace that he is wearing. Damian is almost overpowered, but Madeline saves him when she intervenes and wounds Anton. Anton then reveals to Damian that he has shed multiple times, and the process is easier the more often it is done. While Damian confiscates Anton's pills, Anton taunts Madeline to ask her 'husband' why he can't answer personal questions about their life. Damian, Madeline, and Anna then escape again.
After they are safely away, Madeline confronts Damian over his behavior and lack of knowledge of their personal details, and forces him to reveal to her all that has happened. He then takes her and Anna to his old friend Martin O'Neill (Victor Garber) and convinces him to arrange for Madeline and Anna to flee to the Caribbean. However, he and Madeline discover Anna playing with Martin's young son Tony (Dylan Lowe), who died two years ago; Martin admits that he used shedding to save his son, and that Jensen's men are waiting for them. Damian then reveals the dark secret behind shedding to Martin, who believed that the bodies were artificially grown in a lab and is shocked to find out that his son's new body is really someone else's son. Damian flees to distract Jensen's men while Martin, Madeline, and Anna try to escape through a forest. In an extended car-chase scene, Damian manages to crash Anton's car with him in it and defeat his pursuers, but not before they realize that Damian is alone in the vehicle. Realizing this, Jensen's henchmen recapture Madeline and Anna.
With Martin's assistance, Damian stops taking his medicine in order to experience more of Mark's memories, hoping they will lead him to Jensen. This succeeds, and Damian pursues Jensen to a lab built in an abandoned warehouse. There, Jensen captures him and attempts to shed Anton into Mark's body, but Damian, remembering that metal interferes with the shedding process, hides a bullet casing in his mouth, therefore sabotaging the procedure and killing Anton in the process. Then, Damian masquerades as Anton and rescues Madeline and Anna, who are being held at the lab as possible shedding receptacles. Damian then kills Jensen with a flamethrower. After they escape, Damian arranges for Madeline and Anna to flee the country as planned. Damian, using the Edward Kidner alias, visits his own estranged daughter Claire (Michelle Dockery) and delivers her a letter that serves to reconcile Claire with her estranged father. He then heads to the Caribbean and stops taking his medicine, dying peacefully. The real Mark reawakens in his own body and discovers a video message from Damian (in Mark's body) that was recorded before his death thanking him for the time he gave him. Mark then reunites with his family at last.
- Ryan Reynolds as Young Damian Hale/Mark Bitwell: Reynolds plays Mark Bitwell, the man who has decided to sell his body in order to cover his daughter’s medical bills. Bitwell is eventually overtaken by Hale’s conscious and is a vessel for him to live through.
- Natalie Martinez as Madeline Bitwell: Wife of the “late” Mark Bitwell, Madeline is living life convinced her husband has died.
- Matthew Goode as Albright/Dr. Jensen: As the creator of the “shedding” process, Dr. Jenson underwent the process and was reincarnated in his assistant, Albright’s body. He is the mastermind of the process, but keeps the secret that instead of engineering human bodies in his laboratory, they pay people considerable amounts of money to donate their bodies as vessels.
- Ben Kingsley as Damian Hale: Damian Hale is a wealthy business man who has a terminal illness. He seeks the best care money can buy, a new body.
- Derek Luke as Anton: Anton is first introduced in the movie as Damian’s first friend after he gets his new body. Later, it is discovered that Anton works for Albright and was planted in Damian’s life to watch him.
- Victor Garber as Martin O'Neill
- Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen as Anna Bitwell
- Melora Hardin as Judy O'Neill
- Michelle Dockery as Claire Hale
- Sam Page as Carl
- Brendan McCarthy as Anton 2
- Thomas Francis Murphy as Old Dr. Jensen
- Sandra Ellis Lafferty as Phyllis Jensen
- Emily Tremaine as Mallory
- Teri Wyble as Andrea
- Mariana Vicente as Leah
- Dylan Lowe as Tony O'Neill
Endgame Entertainment and FilmDistrict financed the film, who quickly put the film into development after the two companies saw success with their previous sci-fi film Looper. FilmNation pre-sold the film at Cannes in 2013 and it was the first film to completely sell out at the festival due to universal appeal and the strong pre-sales limited the two financiers' exposure to the budget. FilmDistrict was set to distribute the film in the United States, but the company shut down and was absorbed into Universal's subsidiary Focus Features.
The film was originally set to release on February 27, 2015. On July 2, 2014, the film was rescheduled to release on April 17, 2015. However, on November 8, 2014, the studio once again postponed the film for a July 10, 2015 release.
On May 20, 2015, Focus Features relaunched their Gramercy Pictures label for action, horror, and science-fiction movies. Self/less would be one of Gramercy's new releases. However, Gramercy had no credit on the film when it was released.
Self/less grossed $12.3 million in North America and $18.2 million in other territories for a total of $30.5 million, against a production budget of $26 million.
The film opened in North America on July 10, 2015 in 2,353 theaters, earning $5.4 million in its opening weekend, ranking number eight at the domestic box office.
The film also opened in Sweden and Turkey on the same day as the United States. It opened in fifth place in the latter with $135,191 from 208 screens. The movie stayed in the box office for six weeks, ending with a total of $495,953. The film opened in Italy on September 10, 2015, and finished in seventh place with a total of $353,291.
Self/less has received generally negative reviews from critics; despite receiving some praise for its original premise, the movie was criticized for the generic execution and lack of character development. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a rating of 19%, based on 129 reviews, with an average rating of 4.5/10. The site's consensus reads: "Self/less boasts a potential-packed premise, but does frustratingly little with it, settling for lackluster action at the expense of interesting ideas." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 34 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". In CinemaScore polls, cinema audiences gave Self/less an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale. The IGN review by Josh Lasser awarded it a score of 5.0 out of 10, saying "For someone with great visual command of the medium, Singh's latest is a disappointment."
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