Prior to Side Effects, Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh’s previous three movies had gotten progressively worse. Contagion, dishonored as one of the most disappointing movies of 2011, was followed the next year by Haywire and Magic Mike, one of the last year’s worst movies. However, TV spots hail Soderbergh’s new film, Side Effects, as 2013’s first good movie. False. Side Effects is the year’s first great movie.
Perfectly complemented by Thomas Newman’s eerie score, the psychological thriller slowly ensnares viewers, then tightens its grip like a vise as the movie travels deeper down the rabbit hole, and never lets go until the very end. The first half prominently features an antidepressant-pill-popping patient played by an entrancing Rooney Mara, who’s nearly as captivating as she was in her Oscar-nominated performance in the remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, MediaStinger’s Movie of the Year 2011. Her hypnotic eyes speak volumes, and even her silent presence screams for well-deserved attention. Side Effects confirms how obvious it is that Mara has a storied acting career in front of her.
The second half of Side Effects shifts its focus onto Jude Law’s psychiatrist, and Soderbergh doesn’t take his foot off the gas, instead sending the tale down a path with as many twists and turns as his Ocean’s movies. By then, he has instilled a very real and plausible fear into viewers, no matter which character they relate to or pull for. And by the end, you’ll leave with plenty of satisfaction and no need for a second opinion.
Side Effects brings director Steven Soderbergh back closer to his earlier work of Oscar-worthy fare. Featuring impressive turns by Rooney Mara and Jude Law, this is one pill you should definitely take. It might be tough to swallow, and it won’t go down smoothly, but so far it’s the best treatment for this year’s depressing cinematic slate so far.
Side Effects gets 4 out of 5 stars.