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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

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Self/less (2015) on IMDb

Plot Overview

In a skyscraper aerie overlooking the cityscape of NYC, stands billion­aire Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) “the man who built New York.” He has seen better days (“The old man won't be around for long.”) His ruth­less manner demonstrates itself when he fires a man (“You s.o.b., you're gonna be dead in a year and then who gives a [rip]!”) Alas, Damian muses, it's more like six months, the way his cancer has metastasized.

Money talks, though, and he's investigating a process called “shedding” practiced by Phoenix Biogenic, in which they provide a lab-grown “empty vessel” into which—for a price—they will trans­fer his consciousness. Damian spends some time musing over his past life—we see a Prince­ton pennant on his wall—and we notice a physical affectation of flipping his keys behind his back onto a chair much as a skilled basket­ball player will sneak a hand­off. He investigates shedding on Google to discover a lecture by Dr. Francis Jensen (Thomas Francis Murphy). He signs up to undergo the procedure developed by Dr. Albright (Matthew Goode) (“If we do this, your old life is over.”) They stage his public death in New Orleans. He gets inserted into an impressive magne­tronic machine, and woo-woo, he comes out in the new body (“It didn't work”) of a younger man (Ryan Reynolds) becoming “Edward.” Albright tells him of his adjust­ment process, “It will take a few days, but it gets easier.” He's given some (red) pills to ameliorate the rejection reaction.

As he is making the transition, he plays some pickup basketball with some neighbor­hood blacks, doing quite well for an old man redis­cover­ing his youth. He still has the same affectation of flipping his keys, and he flips a jar as well. Now, people were chosen for the procedure in part because of their ruth­less­ness, looking out for number one, because it would be to their disadvantage to give the game away by going to the authorities or what­ever. But basket­ball is a team sport, and some­thing human has resurfaced in Edawrd/Damian. Further­more, he must have been a team player all along to have brought up his (estranged) daughter Claire (Michelle Dockery) to have founded the Green Coalition and manage the Triborough Community Coalition (The healing power of friends). When Damian perceives he is sharing the body of a man who traded it to save his ill daughter, he becomes a team player with that man's (surprised) family. This makes him a liability to Phoenix who play rough, but Damian's new body is hard­wired with the instincts and army training of its former inhabitant making this more of an action flick than a Sci-Fi one from then on.


Albright points out that, “You never asked the right questions.” To be sure, there are a lot of angles to consider. For the sake of the plot, the protagonist's new family's daughter Anna (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen), about six years old, is a vulner­able, intelligent, sympathetic figure (“Pumpkin.”) Albright is a slimeball mad scientist, top in his field, who has come too far to turn back. The resulting tension with Damian in the middle necessarily brings to mind, (Eccl. 4:13-14) “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished. For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.” Anna was wise enough to have believed all along that her daddy wasn't dead (“I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!”) She becomes poor when her house gets torched—along with her room and all her toys—, her horse bolts, and she her­self must relocate to new friends at a new school. The “old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished” is Albright being a reconstituted Dr. Jensen who is playing in over­time, medical ethics be damned. The man who comes out of prison to reign is Phoenix's muscle Anton (Derek Luke, Brendan McCarthy, …) whom Albright reclaimed from a Russian prison riot, who was cut up pretty bad but now has gone through three sheddings and counting. That this obscure pair of verses fits this particular plot is evident, but what does that mean to us?

If we look at Bible translations, Solomon in his book of Ecclesiastes says, (Eccl. 12:12) “of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” As our English language changes, more and more trans­lations of God's word have appeared like a snake shedding skins. And yet we need trans­lation, because it would be overly wearisome to have to learn the original languages. If we take those verses above meta­phoric­ally—as one would say, “I like Dickens” to mean his works—then the “poor and a wise child” would be the wise wording of our King James Version (KJV) in an earlier form (“child”) of our English language. It is evident that the Lord favored children, (Matt. 18:3) “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” It is also evident that those earlier English forms have become poor in usage over time. In this movie Damian teaches Pumpkin to swim, as modern English speakers are in need of coaching to use the KJV well. The “old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished” is these modern Bible versions in a more grown up English, which get it wrong yet so dominate our churches it's well nigh impossible to dethrone them. “Out of prison he cometh to reign” is those old Alexandrian manuscripts that have cut up God's word as in a prison riot, from their Gnostic influences.

What's germane to this movie is where the KJV expresses the principle as applied to married couples: (Eph. 5:22) “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” My Criswell Study Bible lists the Greek term for submit (verse 22) as “hupotassō a military term which means ‘to place under’ or ‘to subordinate’.” The movie paints Madeline (Natalie Martinez) as the dutiful wife who discovering her "husband" alive and well, submits to his lead (“Trust me”) as they flee for their lives. When, how­ever, Anton advises her to ask her "husband" if he knows her birth­day (or the circumstances of their first meeting) and she finds he doesn't, it's a whole new ball game. They still have to function together as a team for their mutual survival, but now it's along the lines of the phrase from the previous verse finishing up Paul's thought on body life, (Eph. 5:21) “Submit­ting your­selves one to another in the fear of God.” That has more to do with not disrupting the harmony of the group than with any hierarchical leader­ship. It employs a different Greek term for submit­ting. To main­tain the harmony, Madeline tells her daughter who witnessed their sharp tête à tête, that daddy had forgotten mommy's birth­day. Later “Pumpkin” informs him, “It's March 22nd.” They are all in harmony. The minister of my church in preaching on Ephesians 5, used modern versions from "the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts" that he claimed didn't even have a verb for verse 22, so he used the one from verse 21. Other modern versions claiming to use "the best manuscripts" do have a verb in verse 22. Many modern versions cut up the paragraphing at that point to try to force an enjambment using a body-type harmony in place of a military-style submission for the wife. This movie shows a definite change in behavior after an "Ahah!" moment when the woman realizes that the man in her husband's shoes is not really her husband, though they're all forced to be on the same team.

If one reads out loud the KJV—as it's supposed to be read—, he'll find it necessary to pause for breath in Paul's lengthy discourse after verse 21 for an "Ahem" moment before starting the new subject of a woman's subordination to her husband in verse 22. The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (as well as the Old) inserts a new paragraph at this point. Modern versions break Paul's discourse into short sentences, then the NIV makes verse 21 a para­graph unto itself, and the NRSV moves this new para­graph up into the labeled section on Married Life. Ubiquitous preaching in our culture turns the wife's sbmission into a mere cooperative arrangement with a husband who demonstrate love to her, the exact arrangement of Maddy with her ersatz husband in this picture. The KJV, especially if it's read out loud, will enjoin on the wife more of a military style respect à la 1Peter 3:1-6, what is known as "saluting the uniform" whether the authority is nice or not.

Production Values

This film “” (2015) is a minor thriller using the same Sci-Fi device as did the 1966 movie “Seconds” (with Rock Hudson) where a man's life is prolonged by trans­fer­ring his consciousness to another man's body, but the plots are dissimilar. It was directed by Tarsem Singh and its screen­play written by David Pastor & Àlex Pastor. It stars Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Martinez, and Matthew Goode. Ben Kingsley appears briefly at the beginning. Every­one nails his part, which is no easy matter when different parties inhabit the same body and/or a wifely role is suddenly not.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for sequences of violence, some sexuality, and language. The scenes with the child help root it in innocence though others are frightening. The science in the transfer of minds is never thoroughly explained but the process is first rate Franken­steinian. This original thriller is well-acted, well-paced and well-plotted. Loose ends, there are none.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“Self/Less” is a triumph in casting. The mad scientist is creepy, the little girl is endearing, her Latino mother is passionate, and her father-figure has a natural athleticism while pulling off an older man's demeanor. This movie just sucks one right in and maintains his undivided attention until the end. It succeeds at what it does while not affecting an ambition to be a movie great. Go see it with my recommendation.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four and a half stars out of five.