HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:84
Tarsem Singh is a name to invoke images of sheer beauty, and mind numbing psychedelic visual stimulation. Known for films like “The Cell”, “The Fall”, “Immortals”, and “Mirror Mirror”, his legend is that of incredible visual imagery and poetry told through the eyes. You either GET his movie making style AS substance or you don’t. His movies tend to be a bit of a mind trip, and mixing an action sci-fi script with Tarsem Singh is a recipe for incredible success or downright art house film. Ironically “Self/Less” is neither. Visually it’s his least impressive film as it is done in a more down to earth style and the plot is a solid mind bender WITHOUT the psychedelic overtones. To put it bluntly, “Self/Less” is the most UN Tarsem Singh like film that Tarsem Singh has ever done. I enjoyed the snot out of the movie, but I almost couldn’t tell it was Tarsem directing. I can’t tell if he’s taken a change of pace on movie making, or just decided to do something different, but it’s his most relatable and entertaining movie to date, despite using a few well-worn clichés in the crafting of his film.
Terminally ill billionaire Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) is about to run out of time. He’s dying of cancer and there’s nothing that his money can do to change that. His daughter Claire (Michelle Dockery) wants nothing to do with the distant father she never had and he can see his legacy slipping away from him. Somehow a business card for a mysterious Dr. Albright (Matthew Goode …e.g. Ozymandius in “Watchmen”) ends up on his personage and once in the presence of Dr. Albright is informed that he can partake in a science experiment called “shedding”. Basically he is allowed to transfer his consciousness into a lab grown body much younger and healthier, allowing him to basically have another life. Desperate to save himself, Damian agrees without asking too many questions.
Upon waking up Damian (in his new body) struggles with adapting to a new neural setup. Re-learning to walk, to stand, to shower, to get around, Damian’s struggles on. However, there is some slight side effects that Dr. Albright assures him are quite normal. These side effects include headaches and hallucinations that tend to nearly incapacitate him. Thankfully Dr. Albright prescribes a proprietary medication that calms the headaches, but he has to take the pill every day for a year. Setup in a luxurious apartment, Damian is free to live his new life, just with a weekly Dr. visit to make sure he’s adapting to his new body. Damian soon starts to feel like the hallucinations are more than just a simple side effect. Accidentally skipping one dose too many he starts to remember sensations of being another person. Sure that he’s on to something, Damian tracks down the location of some of his memories and runs straight into his old life. Well, the life of the lab grown body he’s in.
It seems that his body isn’t what he thought it was. In fact the body isn’t lab grown at all. Instead it’s a volunteer who sold his body for science so that he could save the life of his terminally ill little girl. Unfortunately, going back to his old house was a big mistake, as Damian and his “old” wife, Madeline (Natalie Martinez) has to run for their lives as the crews of Dr. Albright move in to contain any breach of the experiment. Now Mark, Madeline and little Anna (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) are fugitives from a highly trained and very deadly group of people who will do anything to keep their secret safe. Including kill the very body they just helped live again.
“Self/Less” is a LOT more fun than I expected. I enjoy Tarsem Singh films, but nothing prepared me for a semi NORMAL film by the Indian director. The visual flares that he is most known for are gone or heavily subdued, and the storytelling is rather linear. Something which Singh isn’t exactly known for. “Self/Less” seems to be a rendition of the movie “Seconds”, following very closely to the premise in that movie, just without the fish eye lens and psychedelic nature (which seems like would be just up Singh’s alley). Instead “Self/Less” sticks to a pretty straight forwards action sci-fi structure. He keeps you guessing long enough for you to wonder just what direction the movie is going to take next, while still keeping the end goal in sight. We all know the ending of the film, or at least what Damian’s decision is going to be once he understands what the medication does. Otherwise there would be no GOOD GUY of the film. Still, the twists and turns along the way that reveal his next actions are what keeps the movie interesting.
Ryan Reynolds isn’t exactly known for his dramatic roles, with maybe the exction of “Safe House” with Denzel Washington. The goofy comedian actually takes to his fairly grim role like fish out of water, flexing some acting muscles that I wasn’t sure he had. While Reynolds has a hard time copying the same mannerisms of Sir Ben Kinsley, he does a solid job at being serious and stoic like the former. Mathew Goode is just creepy delicious as the enigmatic Dr. “Albright” (let’s call him that for now), and the more you get to know him, the more you hate his character. Natalie Martinez luckily doesn’t need to do a whole lot of heavy lifting, as the former sex pot eye candy for films plays the part of a stressed out mother and wife. She’s good, but luckily doesn’t need to stretch herself too much for the role, which is to her advantage.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, some sexuality, and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=58769[/img]Even though “Self/Less” doesn’t carry the telltale visual style of Tarsem, the man has an eye for magnificent photography. Beautifully shot on 100% digital equipment, “Self/Less” looks incredible on the 2.40:1 framed Blu-ray disc. Fine detail is just mind blowing, showing off every fiber on Damian’s coat, every flaw in a gold pendant and every single piece of hair blowing across Madeline’s face. Colors are wonderfully saturated and extremely natural. There’s a bit of a light teal and gold tint to the movie, but not overly so. Contrast levels look balanced and the natural coloring of the film allows for precise and accurate skin tones. Shadow delineation is fantastic as well as the deep and silky black levels. I couldn’t notice ANY signs of banding, crush or other digital artifacting. If it wasn’t for some mild softness during long shots I would give this a 5/5 rating. So close to perfect.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=58777[/img]Not to be outdone, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is immaculate from beginning to end. Dialog is well defined and perfectly legible at all times. The dynamic range is appropriately wide, allowing for moments of quiet contemplation to be broken by the explosion of a car chase, or the firing of bullets across a country house. Surrounds are used quite well, with a lot of ambient activity coming through from the back end. The shifting of car tires across a freeway, the crunching of feet behind Damian or the simple sounds of a child yelling in the background, all come through with pinpoint clarity. LFE is tight and deep adding some great low end to the action scenes, and adding some solid weight to car engines, the score and the “shedding” process. It’s a great and very nuanced track, giving life to the already beautiful looking film.
• On the Run: The Action of Self/Less
• Inside Self/Less
• Feature Commentary with Director Tarsem Singh
There’s some flaws to the movie, mainly in that the ending is fairly straight forward and the action clichés have been done a billion times. I have to call them negatives, as much as they are just no wildly ORIGINAL. Everything has been done before and lacks the incredibly creative flair of Tarsem Singh, but he manages to weave them together seamlessly with a plot that contains just enough twists and turns to keep the movie interesting. I do have to say that I really enjoy watching a Tarsem film that puts storytelling above visual style, even though it does emphasize just WHY he likes to use so much style in his films. The audio and video are to die for, and there’s a fairly good set of extras here. The movie is not perfect, but I feel it’s got enough entertainment for fans of the Sci-fi genre. Recommended.
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode, Natalie Martinez
Directed by: Tarsem Singh
Written by: David and Alex Pastor
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 117 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: November 10th, 2015
Buy Self/Less Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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