If Steven Soderbergh is truly retiring after the release of Side Effects, then he will go out on top. The film is a nail-biting thriller that is one of the smartest we've seen in some time. That is not only because of the psychiatrist as protagonist centrality to the story, it is cerebral cinema at its finest because all the puzzle pieces are constantly moving and never fit together until the final moments.
Rooney Mara is a young wife to Channing Tatum. As the film begins, she is there to see him when he gets out of a minimum security prison where he had been serving time for insider trading. There is not much we can or want to say about this film beyond that -- each moment of it needs to be appreciated without any background knowledge.
That is where it is the most powerful. What Movie Fanatic can say in our Side Effects review is that it is the rare cinematic experience of late where the movie you think you're watching changes on a dime. And then... it morphs itself into something else again.
Catherine Zeta Jones and Jude Law are psychiatrists who, at different times, treat Mara's Emily for depression. As seen in our Side Effects exclusive trailer, she drives her car at full speed into a wall. When she comes to, she's in the hospital being looked after by Law.
He's all too ready to prescribe her medication that he promises will lighten her gloomy mind. When those don't work... they try another that she saw on a television commercial. Now... those warned-about Side Effects take hold.
The screenplay that Soderbergh and his as always awesome cast work with has so many layers it reminds us of The Usual Suspects meets Primal Fear. In our Scott Z. Burns interview, the screenwriter told us that he hoped this film would recall those two gems as well as a legion of psychological thrillers that are absent from the movie landscape currently.
That is true in so many ways with Side Effects. It also recalls Body Heat in the way you never know which end is up. The viewer never blinks because one could miss a vital clue.
Since discussing any other plot details would literally ruin it for the reader, all that is left to discuss is Soderbergh and his legacy. If Side Effects is his Swan Song, then it is a perfect summation of all the genres he has brought to life over the last several decades. We asked you what is your favorite Steven Soderbergh movie and I bet it was hard to choose one. The man has given us sex, lies and videotape to The Limey, Ocean's 11, Erin Brockovich, Out of Sight and even Magic Mike and Haywire.
Try to think of another filmmaker that was as much of a chameleon as Daniel Day Lewis is an actor? You can't.