It’s always sad to hear when a director says that that there no longer going to make any more threatrical films, especially if they are still rather young and have plenty more years ahead to do it. But that is what Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh has decided to. While it’ll be sad that we won’t see any more films of his in the cinema but I’m pretty sure that he has good reasons for doing so. However before he does, he has one last film up his sleeve to show us (well, technically he has two but that 2nd film will a T.V. film) and that is the thriller SIDE EFFECTS. So was it a worthy film to be his last theatrically released film? In some ways it is.
The film tells the story of a young married woman named Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara), who suffers a terrible case of depression after her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) gets released after spending 4 years in prison for insider trading. Unable to cope with it all, she decides to kill herself by crashing her car head-on into a concrete wall. Luckily she survives and he soon put under the care of and to have weekly sessions with a psychiatrist named Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). Banks decides to subscribe a series of different antidepressants to Emily but unfortunately none of the seem to work. After receiving some advice from Emily’s former psychiatrist Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Banks decides to put Emily on a new experimental anti-depressant that has just come on the market called Ablixa. As soon as Emily uses it, she starts to feel much better and her life goes back to normal. However not long after, something happens that affects the lives of everyone involved.
I should say that there is a lot more to the story than that but decided not to reveal anymore because this is definitely without a doubt one of those films that is best to go into it with knowing anything about it. Believe it or not I was actually debating to myself whether to even write a synopsis for this review or not, since the tiniest bit of information about SIDE EFFECTS could easily spoil it. So I’ll try my best to be as vague or not as in-depth as possible when it comes to reviewing this film. But if there is one thing I can say about SIDE EFFECTS, is that it’s definitely not predictable (surprisingly the trailers haven’t given away what the film is really about). For while you think the film is going to one thing but then becomes a completely different film by the end of it. There were a lot things that happened in the film that I didn’t see coming and it made it into a rather compelling ride. Soderbergh does a great job with his direction. His very restraint and non-flashy trademark visual style works extremely well with this film. I can understand why it won’t work for most people since his style can come off rather cold and distant, personally I never had a problem with it here but I thought that it gave the film an elegant old school feel that we haven’t seen in a thriller for quite a while (it reminded me a lot of how thrillers were made in the 70’s). Plus it helps that he has a complex and well crafted screenplay by Scott Z. Burns (he previous worked Soderbergh on the films THE INFORMANT! and CONTAGION). Burns nicely balances all the twists, turns and thriller elements of the story while also giving us some intriguing insight into psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry as well. Also has written some really compelling and interesting characters too.
The main cast all do a wonderful job with their roles but the stand-outs were definitely Jude Law and Rooney Mara. Law was rather compelling in the lead role and I was riveted by his character’s journey through out the film. While I’m not the biggest fan of Mara (I think she is a rather boring actress) but it nice to see play a character that she chew on. I was worried at first because in the 1st act she was a bit wooded and monotone (but then again that is how the character is supposed to be so I can forgive her for that) but she does get a lot more captivating as film goes on (I thought she was better here than her performance in David Fincher’s overrated THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO remake). Catherine Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum are both also quite good in their supporting roles and I enjoyed seeing them when they were onscreen. Also Thomas Newman’s score was both fantastic and chilling (it reminded a lot of 70’s horror film scores), the cinematography was stunning and the ending was terrific.
However on the negative front while I did really like the film a lot, a part of me kind of wishes that Soderbergh had picked a far more challenging and ambitious film to be his final theatrically released film (again while he does have one film coming up but that one is going to be shown on T.V.). I know that is probably too much to ask and I know most of you will disagree with me but I just would’ve like to have seen him go out with a truly great film or even a masterpiece rather than with a film that’s just a pretty good one but that’s just me. Also while do I think that the film is very well written, I must admit that the film’s many twists-and-turns were it did come off as being rather too far-fetched as it went along and it did make the plot feel a little confusing. Plus the film does occasionally feel rather a bit slow-paced at times as well.
Overall, as I said before, while would have loved to see Steven Soderbergh make one final truly great film as his last one for the cinema but despite that SIDE EFFECTS is still a really good and compelling one nonetheless. If you are a fan Soderbergh or Hitchcock-esque thrillers, than you going to enjoy this one. I definitely recommended everyone to check out.
Review written by Bede Jermyn