Side Effects

WRITTEN BY: Scott Z. Burns
DIRECTED BY: Steven Soderbergh
STARRING: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum
RATING: 3.5 stars

Just when you think you know what Side Effects is about, the plot takes a sudden turn and it becomes something else. It begins almost like an exposé on the pharmaceutical industry and Western society's reliance on medication, before shifting gears and becoming far more sinister. Some have compared it to a modern-day Alfred Hitchcock film, but I wouldn't give it that great a compliment, even with Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Magic Mike, Ocean's 11) as the director. It felt more 90's at times in its style. What makes it enjoyable though is that it keeps viewers guessing and engrossed in the plot. If nothing else, Side Effects is a good suspense thriller.

Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) is married to Martin (Channing Tatum) who has just been released from prison where he was serving a four-year sentence for insider trading. Soon after he returns home, she begins to relapse into a depressive state and nearly kills herself when she crashes her car into a wall. Emily agrees to regularly meet with Dr Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) who visits Emily's previous therapist, Erica Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), for more information about his new patient. They agree Emily should try a new medication called Ablixa, but a side effect of the drug is sleepwalking. When Emily commits a murder, Jonathan finds himself under serious scrutiny from authorities and the media.

Mara is fast-becoming a Hollywood darling with some gripping recent performances. Side Effects certainly adds to that list. She gives a very powerful performance. Soderbergh seems to bring out the best in Law, who he previously worked with on Contagion. Law is particularly good in the second half of the film. Tatum has a smaller role but is given an opportunity to play a more serious character. Zeta-Jones is the only one who was perhaps miscast. I didn't quite buy her in the role.

It has been reported that Side Effects may be Soderbergh's last feature film. I hope not. I think he still has some great work ahead of him.