Side Effects

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Starring: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum, Vinessa Shaw.

Written by: Scott Z. Burns

Running Time: 106 mins

Cert: 15

Release date: 8th March 2013

Steven Soderbergh has, since his debut back in 1989 with sex, lies and videotape, been a prolific and sometimes ground breaking film makers. Never once staying in the same genre, always willing to try something different, sometimes working well, sometimes not, you knew walking in to a film with his name on that it will be an interesting experience, nevertheless. So when news came through that Soderbergh was retiring from film making to concentrate on art and theatre, film fans immediately knew that a great director would no longer be bringing his magic to the screen. So now comes his swan song and a perfect way to end a career, then with a film that starts off as one thing and goes down a totally different path by the end.

Emily Taylor is a troubled woman. Her husband has been in jail for insider trading and has just been released but this isn’t helping her. Suffering from depression, she drives her car into a wall and is immediately admitted to hospital, where she meets Dr Jonathan Banks. He takes her as a patient and offers her the chance, with the advice from her previous psychiatrist, Dr Victoria Siebert, to try a new anti-depressant, Ablixa. Emily seems to be fine except for her “sleepwalking” which leads to a tragic accident. Could it be a side effect of the drug? Or is there something far more sinister. Dr Banks soon finds his world crumbling around him so has to find out the truth.

Soderbergh and writer Scott Z. Burns have two movies on their hands here. It starts off as an examination of the dangers of prescription drugs and not knowing what the side effects can have on each individual, then when you least expect it, they change the tone and give us a Hitchcockian thriller that heads towards a hokum of an ending but by the point we reach that, Soderbergh has thrown his net over you and caught you up in the twists and turns. Yes, the finale is nonsense and it doesn’t take a genius to work it out but it’s done with such class that you still leave the cinema fully satisfied.

The performances are, as you would expect, excellent. Jude Law, who has been making some excellent movie choices of late, is on fine form here as Dr Banks. Part of you think you shouldn’t like him or trust him yet Law makes you care for his plight throughout, which just shows how good he is. Catherine Zeta-Jones has never been sexier or more quietly confident than here and those who go looking for some major Channing Tatum action, he isn’t on screen much and yet, like Soderbergh previous, Magic Mike, he manages to bring the best out of him.

The film, however, belongs to Rooney Mara. After her terrific turn as Lizbeth Salander in the remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, she is on fire here as Emily. Never sure where her mind is, she comes across as a hugely sympathetic and yet there is so much more to her character. Not only is she very easy on the eye, she is an actress that should, after this performance, be on everyone’s lips as one to watch.

A complicated script with more twists and turns than a country lane and Soderbergh’s assured direction, using some nice cinematic tricks, keeps the pace moving swiftly along. It’s a terrific adult thriller and the sort of film that most directors would kill to make. It’s a fitting ending to an interesting career and if Soderbergh never steps back behind the camera again, he has left us with a fine example of how good a director he is (or was). Please, Steven, get bored and come back soon.

4/5

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