Side Effects (2013) – Review

4 Stars

Side Effects is a movie that blindsided me. From its subdued opening to the far-reaching and nearly over-the-top conclusion, this is a film that never steps wrong, not for a scene or line of dialogue. Perfectly capturing the tone that has eluded the likes of Brian Depalma, and even lesser filmmakers for the last 40 years. Steven Soderbergh has quietly delivered one of the year’s best films, and if this is his last feature (as widely reported), it’s a graceful bow-out. Two years ago Contagion appeared on my Top 10 Best of the year list, I have a strong suspicion that Side Effects may top-line that list this year. Featuring a star-studded cast doing career best work, Soderbergh has concocted a twisted crime-thriller that delivers one of the years best head-trips.

Emily (Rooney Mara) is severely depressed due to a loss of lifestyle that has sent her into the dark recess of her mind. Things should be brightening up, her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) has recently returned home from a four-year prison sentence and the couple appear to be headed back to financial and marital bliss. Yet, Emily attempts suicide by running her car into a concrete wall. She survives the ordeal and is ordered to undergo psychiatric care under the watchful eye of Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). Sensing that Emily needs different medication her prescribes a new anti-depressant hitting the market.

For a short period the drugs seem to have a positive influence on Emily’s life, until she starts to suffer from extreme sleepwalking, a listed main side effect of the medication. One night in a medicated comatose state, Emily stabs and kills Martin. Is it murder or a horrific reaction to medicine that shouldn’t be available to the public? This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of plot twists and character’s switching loyalties and unclear motivations.

The outstanding music from Oscar-winning composer Thomas Newman gives the film an unnerving edge that is supported by the stark cinematography and serpentine screenplay. Many movies have been labeled Hitchcockian, but rarely has a modern flick come so close to matching the great director’s best films, Soderbergh has been able to pull of the difficult feat and with little difficulty. The last ten minutes of the film are as audacious as anything released under a studio banner this year. Side Effects is easily one of 2013’s finest films and Steven Soderbergh’s work is OSCAR worthy. An incredible film with many layers of complexity, rich in dialogue and performances captured by a filmmaker in total control of every aspect of his craft.

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones

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