Self/Less

 

            This is one of those sci-fi thrillers that's plausible enough to generate some ethical questions.  It seems that a brilliant scientist named Albright (Matthew Goode) has successfully developed the technology for a successful brain transplant.  But there's something of the Nazi experimenter in him:  he thinks that great minds should be preserved and transferred to younger bodies, the problem being that he hasn't yet developed the technology to create the younger bodies.  He has to acquire them the old-fashioned way:  by killing them first.

            Damien (Ben Kingsley) is a super-successful, very rich entrepeneur who's got cancer and is fading fast into the twilight, and he knows it.  Desperate, he hears about Albright's work and contacts him, and of course the price is very steep, and the procedure is irreversible.  Damien has to be willing to leave his old life behind, and start again.  And they have to convincingly stage his death.

            The only problem Damien has with this scenario is that he would still like to re-connect with his daughter, Claire (Michelle Dockery).  But she isn't having any of it.  As far as she's concerned, her father abandoned her when she was a little girl by divorcing her mother, and now that she's grown he doesn't get to make amends.  Especially by trying to donate money for the non-profit charity she runs.  She'll take anybody's donations but his, because she's convinced he's merely trying to buy her affection and pay for his guilt to be absolved.  And she won't give him the satisfaction.

            So Damien agrees to the radical clandestine procedure, and instantly becomes.....Ryan Reynolds.  Who now looks almost exactly like a younger George W. Bush, so with some of the sequences it's hard to overlook that coincidence. 

            It seems that the now-young-again Damian (Reynolds) wasn't told everything by Albright about the aftereffects of the procedure.  First, he would be weak as a kitten for a while, and need physcial therapy to regain his strength.  Second, he would have to continually take special pills that prevent the disorientations and hallucinations.  Third, his brain would now have “memories” from the person whose body he now inhabits, and the pills will help him overcome this duality, but it would take some time.  And also constant monitoring by Albright, who chooses to supply the all-important pills only a week at a time, making Damien feel that Albright is exercising such stringent control because he's hiding something.

            Of course he is.  He'd told Damien that his new body was merely created in the lab, but of course that wasn't the case.  Albright says he's still working on that, but in the meantime, Damien should be grateful that he has a new, young body for his experienced mind to inhabit.  But Damien, who's always thought for himself, anyway, feels guilty about the knowledge that another man's life was taken to give him a new one.  And so he goes off the reservation, using flashback memories coming from his new body to find that man's family, and to warn them that they are in danger themselves.  But of course so is Damien, because Albright does not wish to be exposed.

            Some really good chase scenes here, amidst the almost-cerebral pseudo-science.  Strong secondary performances, especially by Natalie Martinez.  The psycho-babble almost sinks it, but if you can suspend disbelief just enough, this one is a plausbile thriller with an unexpected ending.

 

Questions For Discussion:

1)                  If our mind inhabited another body, would we still be the same person?

2)                  What should money not be able to buy?

3)                  How can Christianity address the obvious longing for personal immortality?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Kaufman, Texas