Film review: Side Effects (2013)


Genre: Drama/ Crime Thriller

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Scott Z. Burns

Cast: Rooney Mara (Emily Taylor), Jude Law (Dr. Jonathan Banks), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Dr. Victoria Siebert), Channing Tatum (Martin Taylor)

It is frightening to realize how consistent is the work of director Steven Soderbergh. His movies are never bad. Some of his work has been close to greatness but the majority just remain a touch above mediocrity.

His latest directorial effort Side Effects is a continuation of a recent slump in form that has brought Soderbergh down from the heights he reached with Traffic just over a decade ago.
Side Effects isn’t bad mind you. For one, the cast is very convincing, especially the sensational Rooney Mara, whose lead role as Emily Taylor is a multi-layered tour-de-force that rivals her impressive turn as Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher‘s The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo.
Side Effects is also grounded on a very interesting story that raises questions about corporate and personal greed in today’s America, specifically on the abuses of pharmaceutical transnationals and the all-too-common practice of stock market manipulation.

Beyond that, Side Effects is a film that becomes more about the resolution of the many twists and turns of the plot, than about the path to get to them. Steven Soderbergh often feels compelled to take the audience by the hand, inserting clues along the way to facilitate our own deconstructive process, instead of letting us frame our own conclusions.

In Side Effects we are encouraged to become detectives, peeling off every layer of drama and deception that tries to conceal the truth. Soderbergh has not quite created a cinematic experience, but a puzzle that projects onto a big screen and begins to unfold piece by piece until there is nothing else left to discover.

Side Effects has its share of pleasures, but too often it becomes about the predictable twists rather than the characters and what they go through.

Rating: 3/5 (above average)

Catherine Zeta

1 thought on “Film review: Side Effects (2013)

  1. Nice review Niels. I think I gave it the same rating as you. Yeah, the plot twists become like a gimmick to me, and though I didn’t see some of them coming I still wasn’t wowed by this film. Not to mention how cold it was, I couldn’t connect with any of the characters.

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