I can’t say that Steven Soderbergh is one of my favourite directors. Having let me down with The Informant and Haywire (as difficult as it is for me to admit that Ewan McGregor has ever been in a bad film), he has since surprised me with Magic Mike, and left me affected after Contagion (neither has hand santizer nor Jude Law’s snaggletooth left me since) and incredibly intrigued about Behind the Candelabra. After announcing that his latest feature, Side Effects, would mark the end of Soderbergh’s lengthy directing career; I was concerned that he would return to the less than favourite stylings of his previous films. Luckily, I had nothing to worry about as Side Effects has stormed its way into my top films of 2013 list without a hint of uncertainty.
Despite being reunited with her husband Martin (Channing Tatumn) after his four years in prison, Emily (Rooney Mara) has struggled with mental illness. Anxious, depressed and suicidal; her psychiatrist, Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), fears for her safety. After meeting with and discussing Emily’s case with her previous psychiatrist, Victoria (Catherine Zeta Jones); Banks reluctantly prescribes her a new experimental drug called Ablixa. Emily’s life begins to unravel as she soon discovers this new wonderdrug has unexpected side effects.
Like all good thrillers, it’s difficult to discuss the plot of Side Effects. Doing so would encourage the likelihood of divulging little informative nuggets that makes the act of watching this film such a joy. Having gone into Soderbergh’s pharmaceutical thriller without any prior knowledge of the plot, and missing as many trailers as possible, I would recommend the same to get the most out of this film. Admittedly it’s no mean feat when everything is so accessible and unavoidable, but it’s easily the best way to settle down to this twisted tale.
A slick, satisfying, subtle social commentary about our dependancy on prescription drugs, its not just the stylish, clever script and story that makes Side Effects effortlessly entertaining. Brisk-paced and packed with suspense, this is Soderbergh at his finest. With his cast of unsympathetic characters (expertly played by Mara, Law, Zeta-Jones and even Tatumn), he uses multi-layered and expertly crafted plot points to tease and trick the audience throughout.
One of the most surprising films of the year, Soderbergh’s Side Effects left me puzzling over and questioning everything long after the credits rolled. Clever, chilling and curious, this tale would be right at home amongst Hitchcock’s classics. The only thing preventing me from giving this gripping, disturbing thriller a perfect score is my worry that it won’t be as impressive come the second viewing. Much like last year’s Argo, I’m unsure that once the tightly packed plot is unravelled it would be quite as impressive. Still, I have more faith than not that it will.