Coming Attractions

Processing soon: Victor Frankenstein
For fun: A look at Transporter 2!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Side Effects

Side Effects sees the return of Steven Soderbergh to the director's chair of a movie focusing on healthcare. While on the surface it may seem to be in the same vein as 2011's Contagion (which I feel was rather overrated), this film is a very different monster.

Shot in a slow, methodical way, the camera often lingers, showing Soderbergh at the top of his game. It's a welcome relief to see his return to more classic choreographic style unlike the messy action sequence shots of 2011's Haywire. Of particular note: the slow panning shots at both the beginning and ending of the film, and one early scene that shows Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara's character) blankly staring out of the closed window of a moving vehicle while the silhouette of large trees flow languidly by. It is very impressive to get a full understanding of just how talented Ms. Mara is when you compare this performance (which is also quite subtle and layered) to the remarkable transformation she underwent for the 2011 version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

The film also stars Jude Law as Dr. Jonathan Banks, a psychiatrist who chose to practice in America because, as he puts it, the presumption is that "you're getting better" when prescribed medication in the States. Jude Law is an actor I've always struggled to not just see as playing himself in movies, and while his skills are undeniable, this can become slightly distracting. That being said, he is a decent choice to play the everyman character, it's just that he doesn't bring anything new to the table. Clearly his role could have been interchangeable with most other British actors near his age. We also see Catherine Zeta-Jones in a seemingly low key role as a colleague of Jude Law's character and a decent use of Channing Tatum as Emily Taylor's husband Martin.

The film score works well (despite being a bit generic) but some long bouts of silence near many of the early scenes may make your mind wander. The color palette is tastefully muted, something that makes sense given the state of mind of Rooney Mara's character. The script is also excellently written and performed, and thankfully lacks the pretentiousness that started to plague Soderbergh's Ocean's sequels of the early 2000s.

This is a movie best viewed with minimal information. To say it's about the prescription drug industry, while accurate, really doesn't paint the whole picture. This is a film where things are not always what they seem, and it has been a long time since I've watched a movie that kept me guessing up until the very end.

Your Doctor Recommends...
  • Beautifully shot film, with long expressive looks at not only the characters but the world they inhabit.
  • Great casting and an impressive performance by Rooney Mara, clearly she is going places.
  • Great use of subtext and foreshadowing that is even more impressive after the credits roll.
  • A movie that is not what you would expect, which thankfully is a very good thing (I'm looking at you Shyamalan!).
Surgeon General's Warning...
  • Starts off a tad slow, which really isn't appreciated until you've seen the entire film.
Verdict: What are you waiting for?! Consult with your doctor today, no Co-pay required!

Watch this surprisingly relevant clip from 2006's The Prestige.

P.S. After listening to some much appreciated feedback, I've slightly altered my final say on movies that I review (the previous style was a tad limiting). I hope you enjoy the updated verdict system, and as always all suggestions, comments or opinions are welcome.

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Feel free to discuss the reviews or the films themselves. All input is welcome.