Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review 178: "Side Effects"

"This is your insanity on drugs."


Doctor Doctor

      I am just know realizing how good Steven Soderbergh is. Sure, it should have hit me sooner. After all, this is the sixth film of his I've reviewed (The Ocean's Trilogy, Contagion, Haywire) and I really liked most of those. Except for Ocean's Twelve. Ocean's Twelve sucks. Anyway, this film kinda slipped under the radar back in February and I figured I would check it out. After all, who doesn't love a good movie about medical malpractice? Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike) and written by Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum), the film follows two people, the first being Emily (Rooney Mara), a depressed woman whose husband (Channing Tatum) has just returned from prison, prompting a suicide attempt from Emily. Our second character is Doctor Banks (Jude Law), the doctor who triers to help Emily cope and gives her medication to help her, along with Emily's former doctor, Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones). However, when she begins to suffer from terrible side effects from the medicine, everyone's lives are suddenly thrown into chaos. 

Rooney Mara excels at making this face throughout the
entire movie.
Doctor-Patient Confidentiality 

      Side Effects is a particularly hard film to review without giving away a lot of spoilers about the film. So, consider everything that follows this to have a major spoiler warning attached to it. If you want to go unspoiled, I recommend seeing this great movie and then reading this review, or at least just skipping to the last paragraph. This movie, however, is best enjoyed with very little knowledge about what it's about. Review starts now. Side Effects is a very good movie. For the last hour anyway. The first forty minutes or so of the film, however, aren't as great. The film essentially can be split into two halves. The first half, which follows Emily, and the second, longer half that follows Doctor Banks. Wait... I think my math was off there. Anyway, Emily's story about here dealing with her medicine's side effects is fine, but never really gets to be all that interesting. Mara is absolutely great in the role, as she normally is. She gives a haunting performance and works well off of her fellow actors. Tatum is also good, though he isn't given a lot to do and does most of his acting in the background while the film focuses on Mara. 

Mind Games

      Know, to continue forward, I have to reveal the twist, so anyone still here who wants to be unspoiled has to leave. Alright. Good. So, here's the really good part of the plot. Emily, while sleepwalking due to a side effect of her medicine, kills her husband, causing Banks's professionalism to be called into question. And if that wasn't enough, Banks begins to discover that Emily might not have been as sick as she said she was. In fact, she might not have even been sick at all. For the last hour, the film follows Banks as he wages a war of mind games against Emily and Doctor Siebert. It's completely awesome. Law is awesome at taking control and Mara doesn't change her performance, making her even more haunting and now, evil. The way everything unfold is extremely thrilling and is very entertaining. Soderbergh has made a return to the heist genre, except her, it's all about the mind games. The only real weak link in this part is Zeta-Jones, who oddly enough doesn't seem like she cares and just comes off as tired and bored. But, it's just a small roadbump in a great mystery, right up there with Hitchcock.

Jude Law still doesn't get the ending to
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
The Verdict

      Side Effects is a mostly fantastic film that fell under many people's radar. The last hour of the movie features some great performances and is one of the most surprising and entertaining mysteries to play out in some time. The way the plot reveals itself is thrilling and suspenseful, thanks in part to Soderbergh's great directing and Burns excellent script. However, a few sub-par performances and a fairly uninteresting first act bog down what could have been one of the year's best film. Overall though, it really deserves a watch. Side Effects gets 5 stars out of 6.

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