It’s the curtain call for perpetual film genius Steven Soderbergh, but he refuses to leave without serving fans a final dose of brilliance – going out with a blast. Side Effects is his last film before retirement at the age of 50 and it’s certainly not a bad film to exit with. The one-man crew director (who often acts as director, producer, writer, cinematographer and editor on his productions) has delivered a number of great pieces lately, among them Magic Mike, Contagion and Haywire. His swan song is a compelling, fast-paced sleight-of-hand thriller that delivers on thrills and is filled with surprises. Side Effects certainly is entertaining and rewarding.
Soderbergh’s final victory lap starts off rather slow, taking time to develop characters and story. It follows the story of Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara), a young New Yorker who sinks into depression after her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) is released from prison. She attempts suicide by driving into a wall, but luckily escapes with only minor injuries. Psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) begins treating Emily with a new anti-depressant drug called Ablixa. But just as Emily seems to return to being her cheerful self again, tragedy strikes and things spiral out of control. Dr. Banks is forced to investigate, but uncovers far more than he bargained for.
The story unfolds with twists upon twists, but thankfully never crosses the line outside of believability. Soderbergh’s great filming techniques keeps the film afloat. Had it been in the hands of another director, I imagine it could very well have failed miserably. But thanks to great cinematography, paced editing and memorable performances by the cast, Side Effects soars above the competition. Thrillers are hardly ever this clever and edgy.