With the snow whipping sideways past my office window, it doesn't mean that the itch to head out and catch a movie is dead for anyone out there in need of some cinematic stimulation. "Side Effects" is a stunning thriller that evokes memories of everything from the taught 70's political thriller and even some nods of the directorial cap to the great Alfred Hitchcock.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
"Side Effects" is a stunning and provocative thriller about Emily and Martin (Mara and Tatum), a once successful New York couple who are on their way back to the top. However their world begins to unravel when Emily's outer shell of depression is beginning to come to the surface so he is prescribed a new drug prescribed by her psychiatrist (Law) that's intended to treat anxiety. Results seem to be working wonders until some strange side effects begin to show themselves and the ethical lines in the doctor/patient relationship begin to get very blurry and the anxiety begins to manifest itself on multiple levels.
As we the audience sit with the second to last film on the Steven Soderbergh retirement tour, the end results are a near masterstroke of storytelling as we get an incredibly sharp film that is perfectly wrapped up in a druggy haze. Soderbergh takes great pleasure in keeping us the edge with some timely subject matter and dialogue that jumps off the page. It's shot in an almost low-fi motif but his use of greys along with shadow and colour make for some great visuals as the drama ramps up to a feared pitch. Scott Frank's script moves at a measured pace and never once takes the audience's intelligence for granted and on the contrary this is the kind of film that actually challenges us to keep up with the juicy twists and turns going on in front of us. While it admittedly does get a little too wrapped up in its own story at times, it really holds the viewers attention thanks to some stellar performances from the ensemble cast.
Tatum is solid as Soderbergh's last theatrical leading man and has done more than enough to prove himself more than a set of abs and a pretty face. Following up her turn as the iconic Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" it's Rooney Mara who truly gets to shine in this. Her performance as Emily Taylor is truly something to behold as she navigates the line between frazzled and delicate all the while keep the devious just below the surface until the film's conclusion. Jude Law as her well meaning psychiatrist worked wonders as his character navigated a minefield that even he didn't imagine was feasible. The entire film was truly layers upon layers of psychological gamesmanship that was just a blast to watch, even when it got a little ridiculous because it was just so brilliantly executed.
If this is really the way that Steven Soderbergh is going to level the realm of theatrical filmmaking then "Side Effects" is probably the best way to do it. This film puts the full brilliance of his visual storytelling ability on display, even when gets a little too self involved.
4 out of 5 stars.
"Side Effects" is now playing in theatres everywhere; check with your local listings for show times.