Get ready to take a roller-coaster ride with Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum as they investigate the issues tackled in the sophisticated thriller, “Side Effects,” said to be retiring director Steven Soderbergh’s final film.
Martin and Emily Taylor’s (Tatum and Mara) marriage comes undone after the latter suffers from the side effects of Ablixa, an experimental psychotropic drug, prescribed by her psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Law), upon the suggestion of Emily’s former shrink, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Zeta-Jones).
It’s the best and worst of times for the seemingly contented couple: Martin has just been released after serving a four-year prison term for insider trading, but Emily’s anxiety attacks and episodes of depression are putting a strain on their marriage.
The situation takes a turn for the worse when Emily begins to sleepwalk and commits a heinous crime (no spoilers here) that infuriates the public. The shocking turn of events, which threatens to destroy Banks’ medical practice, puts man’s penchant for over-medicating under scrutiny, and expose the greed inherent in big business. It forces the beleaguered physician to launch his own investigation—and clear his name! But, things aren’t always what they seem.
By taking a nonlinear approach to storytelling, Soderbergh finds a clever way of introducing the exposition’s compelling twists and turns, and breaking out of the thriller genre’s musty mold. The movie likewise benefits from its director’s resilient skill at spinning ornate plotlines, and raising provocative questions without getting didactic.
The engaging story clarifies itself at final fade, but it’s a testament to his actors’ dramatic gifts and experience that they’re able to maneuver themselves around Soderbergh’s narrative maze without giving away too much of the plot.
Law, Zeta-Jones, Tatum and Mara are no strangers to dark roles—as their respective career-boosting starrers, “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Chicago,” “Magic Mike” and “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” can attest. In Soderbergh’s sophisticated thriller, they’re tasked to inhabit characters that aren’t very likable, but they manage to turn Jonathan, Victoria, Martin and Emily into “relatable” beings driven by comprehensible motives.