Side Effects movie poster
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Side Effects
Side Effects movie poster

Side Effects Movie Review

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A woman is depressed. She is given pills to ease her depression. The pills make her sleepwalk. While sleepwalking, she stabs her husband to death. That is the only the beginning. Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects is a twisty, alluring psychological thriller that is also the first must-see movie of 2013.

In her first role since 2011's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Rooney Mara turns in a powerful and complex performance as Emily Taylor, the troubled woman in question. Multi-layered in all the right ways, Emily is a superbly defined character and serves as a terrific follow-up to Lisbeth Salander.

More impressive is Jude Law, who gives his best performance in years. Law, who was given short thrift in the intentionally vague marketing for the film, plays a much greater role than expected. His character morphs repeatedly throughout the film, much like the story itself. The changes, some nuanced, some not so much, are fun to watch and charge the undercurrent on which the movie thrives.

Side Effects, which also stars Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones, simmers with emotion and the feeling that something just isn't right with what you're seeing. To say much about the overall movie would betray what makes it so great, but Soderbergh, working from a screenplay by Scott Z. Burns, delivers a memorable and satisfying production.

Unlike in many thrillers, the twists and revelations reveal themselves organically. Trying to buck convention, Soderbergh rarely pauses to let these moments sink in - a risk that works occasionally and fails in a few key moments. Had he let these moments settle with his audience before proceeding, Soderbergh would have realized the benefits. Instead, the story just keeps pushing on. Thankfully, due to Soderbergh's talent and the way his film naturally evolves over time, the missed opportunities are quickly forgotten.

Side Effects isn't perfect, but it is a unique, deliciously slick thriller that, like so many Soderbergh movies before it, refuses to give into cliché, expectations or predictability. With great performances and an intriguing story, Side Effects is well worth the price of admission.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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