IF the superb Side Effects is, as we are led to believe, the final movie by the much-admired filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, then it is a masterful way for him to bow out, writes JAMES BRINDLE
Last year I admired but didn’t particularly enjoy Soderbergh’s disaster film with a difference Contagion and sat through the much overrated and least thrilling ‘thriller’ ever in Haywire, but the whipsmart and brilliantly twisting Side Effects is, for my money, up with his best work.
The first half of this film and the trailer that has promoted it, make you believe you are watching a solid and intriguing tale of a young woman’s battle with depression and a study of the side effects of modern medicine used to treat the condition.
However, the second half sees Soderbergh expertly hopping between genres and moving the goalposts in a new direction towards a twisty, sexy, Hitchcockian-style thriller.
The story begins with Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) welcoming the release of her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) from prison after a spell behind bars for what appears to be fraud at the height of the banking crisis. As the couple readjust, she struggles with depression and is treated by psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law).
Yet when Banks prescribes the experimental new drug Ablixa, Emily’s behaviour takes a startling turn for the worse.
It’s very difficult to say too much more than that, as that would be to ruin the twists and turns of the final hour of the film.
Soderbergh directs with huge style, and a crucial scene midway through the movie that sparks what is to come is a masterclass in filmmaking.
Mara, rightly Oscar-nominated for her stunning turn in the tragically overlooked David Fincher remake of The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, nails a challenging role here and is proving herself one of Hollywood’s hottest properties.
Law, meanwhile, has never been better as the psychiatrist wrestling with doing best for his patients, pharmaceutical companies throwing money at him to peddle their particular drug, and his hugely unsympathetic and rather irritating wife (Vinessa Shaw).
There are very few criticisms to make of such an accomplished film – some will dismiss parts of the final act as ridiculous (although I felt that just added to the entertainment), while the trademark musical score for Soderbergh films is sometimes misplaced (though not on as bigger scale as in Haywire).
However, if we must bid farewell to the director of such classics as Sex, Lies and Videotape, Out Of Sight and Traffic, then Side Effects is very much a fond farewell.