Side Effects is easily, without a doubt, the best movie of 2013 so far. I know its early, but this deserves that title. I believe it will still be in the conversation for a top ten list by the year’s end – only time will tell in that matter, though. I greatly wish this hadn’t come out this early in the year, however. If Side Effects holds up with other great movies of 2013, it might be ignored by the Oscars because of its release date. Yes, Crash won everything and came out early. It’s just rare. What could give it a boost is Steven Soderbergh. He has stated he intends to retire soon; this could be his final theatrical released film. Along with this fact, Soderbergh would have defiantly earned it as well. Part of me doesn’t want to see him to retire. If it is indeed his finale, Soderbergh went out on a high note.
The plot is difficult to tell without spoiling. A big strength of the movie is how everything unfolds. I’ll do my best to convey it in a good way, but won’t reveal anything that would ruin the experience. Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) suffers from depression. She knows she shouldn’t have this problem, but it won’t go away. Her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), has just been released from a stint in prison for insider trading. One day, she attempts suicide. She then meets with psychiatrist Dr. Jonathon Banks (Jude Law). Dr. Banks ends up deciding to put her on some antidepressants. He then meets with Emily’s old doctor, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Dr. Banks eventually decides to put Emily on a new medication. It’s called Ablixa. The sole side effect is it makes her sleepwalk. Emily says it works, so she is kept on the new drug, Ablixa.
Scott Z. Burns is three for three as a screenwriter. All of his scripts have been for Soderbergh film’s. Burns wrote The Informant!, Contagion, and now Side Effects. I haven’t yet seen The Informant! (want to see it), so can’t comment on that one. Heard nothing but great things, though. His work here was excellent. Characters and dialog were the best and most important factors aced. Characters are built up strongly for a good long while. That could have been a misstep; too much developed can be just as bad as too little. You get a great feel for them. So, later on, you know them, understand them, and care about them.
I love a good movie that can create tension through conversations. What has become a poster boy for that statement from me, is The Ghost Writer. The story engulfs you completely. By its third act you are completely submerged in that world. I was on pins and needles by the end. Far fetched elements prodded there way in at time. In this case, they aren’t huge enough to cause unwanted speculation.
The performances are outstanding all across the board. Jude Law has been in many movies these past few years. He hasn’t gotten a big lead role where he can truly shine. Hugo, Contagion, Sherlock Holmes, voice work for The Rise of the Guardians, provided supporting to small roles. Anna Karenina had a bigger role for him, but not great material for him specifically. Law embodies this character, makes you forget he’s just a character. He does one heck of a job. I’ve come to really like Rooney Mara. She’s splendid here; Mara’s performance is up to par with her one in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. They are different roles. While this one isn’t nearly as “in your face,” it’s subtle. Law and Mara carry everything in an impact full way.
Channing Tatum’s carer was given major life in 2012. Tatum’s showing no signs of slowing down. Another excellent job from him. Catherine Zeta-Jones is the weakest out of the cast, still does a fine job. It seems, though, that she plays the role in a different “way” than the other cat members, if you know what I mean. Almost a bit cartoony for a world played so real.
Steven Soderbergh beautifully directs. The movie’s first half and second half are very different. In the beginning it’s a relatively slow character piece. Then, all of a sudden it becomes a complex many layered thriller (you may figure out the twist the moment it’s about to happen, but not a second before). One big plot shift – tone still stays the same. The movie tricks you into believing you know what the movie really is. Overall, the change came naturally. I only have a couple of gripes. The second half, almost in a way, eliminates ideas from the first half. That could have been intentional, but I would doubt it. I also think the first scene could have been cut to add more to the surprise twist. These problems do make a difference. Still, the positives out way the negatives ten fold. Side Effects is one smart thriller. The sole side effect, is you might be extremely eager to see it a second time.