Steven Soderbergh gives us a nice, tightly bound, suspense drama in his multi-starrer Side Effects. The film stands out for having a more subtle approach to this plot in-place of being a fast paced thriller that would have certainly made it more commercial, but simultaneously less intense at the end.
Side Effects is a psychological mystery that revolves around Emily Taylor, played brilliantly by Rooney Mara, who is accused of murdering her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) while on medication prescribed by her psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). The main leads in the film give an outstanding performance, which is somewhat restrained by the lacklustre performances of Channing Tatum and Catherina Zeta-Jones who plays Emily’s previous psychiatrist. Nevertheless, the plot-line is such that it slowly and methodically presents the clues to both the characters and the audience, never truly giving away the suspense and thus keeping the interest level at a high.
The film does have a similar feel to it as some previous psychological suspense dramas like Primal Fear or even Wild Things, but it really stands its own ground primarily because the story throws so many red herrings throughout its running time, that it becomes truly a guessing game as to what the outcome will be. Here again, at the end, the director could have gone one of many ways with the final “twist” and each would have been satisfactory, but the fact that he prefers a rather unconventional end, for a film like such, is quite out of the box. You may say that the final shock value lies in the fact that there is no shock value, but that does not mean the film falters here, on the contrary it proves to be quite enjoyable.
In a world where we are regularly spoon-fed the smallest of details, Side Effects comes across as an intelligent film that challenges the audience and takes them on a ride into the realms of a few twisted human minds.