Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Side Effects Review

Side Effects Review
Warning: The following review may contain spoiler content. You have been warned.

Steven Soderbergh is one of the finest filmmakers working today. From "Traffic" to "Ocean's Eleven," and from "Contagion" to "Magic Mike," he is constantly changing his voice. He is somewhat similar to Tarantino as he dabs in different genres, picks at them, finding ways to make them unique. 

About half-way through "Side Effects" I bet your going to have an idea where this thing is headed. I know I sure did, but "Side Effects" takes a complete 180 degree turnaround near the end of the film. It was something I didn't expect, something that honestly blindsided me. Also, to be honest it made the movie for me. 

The film follows the lives of Martin (Channing Tatum) and Emily (Rooney Mara), a young married couple living in New York. As the film starts, Martin is leaving prison. He went for insider trading, and is now ready to provide for his wife, who has been very depressed in his absence. The depression doesn't go away, and she comes under the care of Dr. Jonathon Banks (Jude Law) and he begins to give her an experimental drug, which side effects include sleepwalking. She begins to feel better, until one night when Martin returns home from work she just decides to stab him to death.

Yes its true, Tatum isn't apart of this for very long. One thing I liked about Soderbergh's "Contagion" in 2011, and now this is how unpredictable he is, refusing to play by Hollywood rules. Just because someone is an A-list star in a Soderbergh movie doesn't mean they are safe. Anything goes when actors sign up to be in the newest Soderbergh film and I think we as an audience are richer for that.

Emily is moved to the mental ward, turns out she has had somewhat similar behavior before with depression. (Though she never killed anybody.) She used to be under the care of Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) until she got better. Soon enough, Banks himself comes under fire for giving her the experimental drug. As the film moves forward, you think this will just be courtroom-esque drama about the distribution of some drugs. But no, that's not it at all. That's all ploy. The film becomes something else and the reveal will either make or break the entire experience so far. I know I threw a spoiler out in this review already, but the BIG REVEAL I will not share with you. All I can say is that for me, it worked. 

Rooney Mara is an actress I have admired for several years now, and she continues to shine in "Side Effects," she is given a juicy role to play and she nails it. I love the new Channing Tatum. I don't know if he fired his agent and got a new one. Or if filmmakers are offering him better roles, or what. But something just happened in his career. Now I get excited to see his name rather than dismiss it. He does really effective work with his short presence. Jude Law is really good here, as is Catherine Zeta-Jones. The whole cast is great and carefully casted by Soderbergh.

Overall, this is a great example of the thrillride. It is a story brought to life by an incredible ensemble of actors who elevate the material. It's unpredictable and smart, a truly Soderbergh gem. I think he has made better films in the past, but when a lesser product of a filmmaker is this good, it means we are in the hands of a true artist. Soderbergh has discussed retiring from directing, and I just hope that all turns out to be hogwash. 

FINAL GRADE: A-

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